Fashion Has Heart is an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives and well being of veterans of our military forces. As a part of that, we would like to highlight members of our community that are dedicating their lives to the very same mission.
Mike Burri is an Army veteran that has made his mark in his community through his acts of kindness. Not only was he nominated the Kent County Veteran of the year, but he is also one of the founders of Friends of Michigan Veterans Homes, Inc.
Burri’s relationship with the military began like that of many young men in the late 1960’s: military conscription. In an interview at the FHH headquarters, Burri joked about being drafted twice.
“I got a letter from President Nixon saying I was drafted. A month later I got another letter saying I wasn’t. A month after after that I got a letter saying that I was indeed drafted.” Burri said jovially, “It was kind of a shock, but so many other young men were being drafted…it was nothing out of the ordinary.”
Once in the Army, Burri served as a Military Policeman at Ft. Hood in Kileen, Texas. He remembers his three years in the Army fondly.
Discipline, self honor, honesty comraderie, leadership and integrity. It was all just placed on you. Burri said, “It was a great experience. I was lucky enough not to go to Vietnam.”
Burri’s personal experiences during the Army were positive, but he noted that many of his peers at the time didn’t have the same attitude.
“When I was there, there were a lot of draftees, a lot of people that didn’t want to be there.” Burri remarked, “It was upsetting to me to see that kind of attitude. They weren’t there to do their job. I thought: we were there, we might as well do a good job and be proud of ourselves.”
When it came to todays military, Burri expressed great adoration for American troops engaged in modern combat.
“I’m so impressed with these kids now because of how much smarter they are than we were. They operate much more sophisticated equipment.” Burri said, ” II feel like the fact that they’re all volunteers, and want to be there and do a good job makes a world of difference.”
After leaving the army in 1971 (besides joining the American Legion), Burri had what he refers to as his “quiet years”. That was until he lost his nephew Army Spc. Eric T. Burri in 2005.
“After I lost my nephew, I became much more active in the community.” Burri remarked, “Now I’m very busy.”
“Busy” is an understatement. In the years since the loss of his nephew, Burri has been a part of multiple efforts to better the lives of many. With the help of his sister in law, Burri started a shoe drive for children in Iraq. In an effort that gained national attention, about 6,000 pairs of shoes and 15,000 blankets to two Iraqi orphanages.
“I was on CNN, they filmed a sign we had made that had my cell phone number on it,” Burry remembered. “I had around 50 messages on my phone before I even left the building!”
As one of the founding members of Friends of Michigan Veterans Homes, Inc., Burri has dedicated much of his time to improving the lives of Michigan’s veterans. In the three and a half years since it’s inception the organization has raised more than $300,000 for Michigan veterans home. He even built a structure that was dedicated to his late nephew.
“We built a 24×32 grilling pavilion and put some huge grills in there!” Burri said proudly, “I also helped put a memorial downtown for all of the soldiers from Grand Rapids lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Burri isn’t planning on slowing down his efforts. During his interview he noted future events he was going to be a part of.
“Friends of Michigan Veterans homes is going to be doing its Annual Charity Golf Outing on September 13th,” Burri remarked, “Proceeds are going to go to a gift shop that we’re going to build in the veterans home.”
Just by talking to Burri, you can tell that he’s genuinely excited about what he’s doing. Look forward to more articles highlighting the achievements and efforts of community leaders like Michael Burri.