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Speaker: Study the past to protect the future
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The 67th Memorial Day Service at Roselawn Burial Park was held Sunday. Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Daniel K. Burs of Danville was the speaker at the service. He said the United States should use experiences of the past to help the military in the future. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Monday, May 26, 2014

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Tactics learned in past wars can help save the lives of military personnel today, a retired Marine Corps officer said Sunday at the Memorial Day Service at Roselawn Burial Park.

Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Daniel K. Burs of Danville went into combat 14 times. He said those times and his study of military history offer lessons for those in combat today.

For instance, he said, the military has to know who the enemy is. But in Vietnam, service men and women would see the Vietnamese during the day going about their business, and the same Vietnamese would be fighting them at night, Burs said, adding that unlike previous wars, the enemy did not wear uniforms.

“My heart goes out to those who served in Vietnam,” he said. “They never knew who they were fighting.”

The first time Burs served in Iraq, the enemy was in uniform and easy to identify, he said. The second time, there were no uniforms and it was more difficult, he added.

If the military saw people amassing a large quantity of food, it likely was not to help the Americans, he said. “They were reallocating supplies to get ready to fight you,” he added.

Burs said he taught lessons such as those to forces from Afghanistan, Israel, Germany, Italy and other countries, and he is glad Vietnam veterans are helping educate the military today.

Burs, who now works as a military consultant, noted that the United States is involved in four conflicts today. He suggested the nation “keep an eye” on Iraq, Iran, Syria and China.

Chinese forces are well trained and equipped and massive, he said.

However, “our young men and women are prepared to take on any challenge, any foe that puts the U.S. at risk,” he added.

He urged the approximately 150 people at Sunday’s program to challenge young people “to do great things, consider the military.” If they go into the military, he said, they should pick their friends based on their skills sets and faith.

“If you have no faith, you go into battle by yourself,” he said.

Burs said he spent 36 years in the military and traveled to 78 counties. Sometimes he heard people say they wished they could leave the United States.

“I say, ‘Go,’” he said, suggesting that the government should give them a one-way ticket out of the country. Once they leave, they will realize how great the United States is, he added in comments that drew strong applause from the audience.

Burs also praised the veterans service organizations, many of which helped sponsor Sunday’s event. He said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other problems but denied it — despite four doctors’ diagnoses — for two years. Those conditions are dangerous, he said, but members of service organizations can help veterans overcome them.

“It’s hard to turn back into a civilian,” he said, crediting his wife for helping him through the adjustment.

Sunday’s program, the 67th such service at Roselawn, was held in memory of John Redd Smith Jr., a Martinsville native who served in the Army from 1943 to 1946. He retired from Tultex Corp. and died in January at the age of 89.

Paul Shivley of the Marine Corps League presented a plaque in Smith’s honor to his son, Tripp Smith.

“I’m honored to accept this for Daddy. It means a lot,” Tripp Smith said. “He did serve his country and Lord willing, he came back. So many didn’t. He was a member of the Greatest Generation.”

The program also included the placing of the POW MIA flag and the POW/MIA tribute, music by the U.S. Army National Guard Infantry Band and the presentation of the colors by the Magna Vista High School JROTC. Representatives of several veterans service organizations and area ministers also took part.


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