Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle W. Burns
Living with no regrets
When Jo Burns found her youngest son, Kyle, jumping off the garage in Laramie, she told him to stop; he was going to get hurt.
Kyle said he didn’t care and jumped again anyway.
Kyle Burns was Jo’s little ball of fire, never afraid of anything. “Just do it,” the Nike slogan? That was Kyle. He started life as a go-getter, learning to walk and talk at an early age.
In high school, Kyle and friend John Brooks were in two roll-overs together and sank two boats.
“Everybody said we had bad luck, but it was really that we were just always out and about,” John said. Kyle didn’t sit still, and John loved that about him.
The two took a road trip across Wyoming once, all on $200. When John had a bad day, Kyle found a busted refrigerator, and the two shot at it for a couple hours.
“It’s hard to describe how he could make something like that so entertaining and brighten my spirit,” John said. “... My mom would always say I smiled more around him.”
An avid hockey player, Kyle considered himself the enforcer of the team. He also believed in fairness, Jo said. He told his coaches everybody needed a chance and asked them to put certain players on the ice if they hadn’t played in a while.
Said lifelong friend Rollie Dunnuck, who also enlisted in the Marines: “When you think of a typical Wyoming kid who loves hunting, fishing and camping, that pretty much sums up Kyle.”
Jo initially opposed Kyle’s desire to go into the Marines. Kyle didn’t like rules, Jo said, and that’s what the military was. Bob and Jo eventually signed the papers for their son, then 17, and in the Marines Kyle found his place.
“When Kyle wanted something and liked it, he excelled. He excelled in the military,” Jo said.
Kyle, 20, was killed Nov. 11, 2004, in an ambush in Fallujah, Iraq. He was just short of a rank promotion to corporal. He’d already bought his bars.
When Kyle came home, the flag draped over his casket had been damaged with a few tiny holes. The Marines replaced it so Bob and Jo could have a clean one. Rollie and Jack Burch, a lifelong friend of Kyle’s and fellow Marine, asked their high school woodshop teacher to make a box for the damaged flag. Rollie and Jack share the flag, passing it back and forth to each other annually.
Rollie said Kyle’s death prepared him for his own deployment. He remembers Kyle’s memorial service, when he heard Kyle’s mom scream.
“He taught me I never want to hear that sound again,” Rollie said.
Dustin Barker of Midland, Texas, who served with Kyle in Iraq, was with him Nov. 11. He said Kyle drew fire away from him and the other Marines on the ground.
“I feel 100 percent that he gave his life for our freedom,” Dustin said. “He saved my life on that day.”
Dustin named his first son after Kyle in 2010, and today he calls the Burns family each Christmas and Mother’s Day.
“She needs to know her son’s not forgotten, that there’s people who cared for him,” Dustin said. “He was my brother.”