Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

February 2012

Northeastern State University ROTC Instructor Burrus Receives Purple Heart


Northeastern State University ROTC instructor Sergeant First Class Billy Burrus receives his Purple Heart.
A long line of guests -- military, civilian and university--were on hand to congratulate Purple Heart medal recipient Sergeant First Class Billy Burrus. A Northeastern State University ROTC instructor, Burrus received the medal on Jan. 25, 2012 for wounds suffered during his 2009 Iraq tour.

Purple Heart medals are generally bestowed upon soldiers overseas in combat after suffering wounds at the hands of the enemy or posthumously to the next of kin.

However, Sgt. 1st Class Billy Burrus received his Purple Heart in front of his friends and family during a special ceremony at Northeastern State University recently. Burrus currently serves as an ROTC instructor on the Tahlequah campus.

“When you deploy, you hope when the time comes you perform with honor,” brigade commander Col. Bridget Rourke said during the ceremony. “Sgt. 1st Class Burrus also received the medal for valor because he stepped up to the plate, despite being less than 100 percent. He stepped up for the team.”

Burrus was serving as a scout platoon sergeant in Iraq on May 10, 2009 when his life was forever altered. While on a patrol mission in Al Jadeda near Mosul, Iraq, an improvised explosive device (IED) was thrown at his vehicle, resulting in his combat injuries.

While Burrus prefers not to talk about that day, he did comment on how this event helps him train future soldiers.

“They may have fears about what they might do when they join the Army,” Burrus said. “I hope this shows that you can go and have a lot of good things happen. You might get hurt but you can come home.”

The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first American award made available to the common soldier. It was initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington to honor those “who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.”

This is the first time a Purple Heart has been awarded on the NSU campus. While Burrus was happy to be able to share this experience with his family, he did have mixed emotions at not being able to share it directly with those he served with in the field.

“Normally you share this with the personnel that were with you when you were wounded,” Burrus said. “That is part of the blessing of being able to do it here rather versus the theater. This way they can actually be a part of an event like this. It’s pretty good.”

Maj. Jason Junkens, who currently serves with Burrus at NSU, said the Stephensville, Texas, native continues to be an inspiration to his fellow soldiers and ROTC cadets.

“Sgt. Burrus is a very professional NCO who is well deserving of this award,” said Junkens. “This is a testament to the sacrifices he made and continues to make for his country.”

Campus E-Clips is published by the Communicators Council, an advisory group to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education comprised of Oklahoma higher education public information officers. All stories are submitted to a review panel of council members for editing and selection. To submit a story, please contact the participating council member from your institution. Stories must meet newsletter submission guidelines. Click here to view the Guidelines. For additional information, email newsletter@osrhe.edu. Site hosted by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Disclaimer