Years of service remembered by local business owner
Burgess: ‘Military life has shaped a lot of who I am’
Joining the Arkansas National Guard at 17 years old shaped the life of a local man, as well as setting into motion a lifelong understanding and gratitude of military life.
Terry Burgess, co-owner of 37 Pawn and Gun in Seligman, said he joined the Arkansas National Guard at 17 years old in 2000, because he knew he just wanted to serve.
“Between my junior and senior years of high school, I went to Fort Knox to complete my basic training,” he said. “Then, after graduation, I went to Fort Sill, Okla., for MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) training, which took about six weeks.”
Burgess was a member of the 2-142 field artillery battery in the National Guard unit out of Siloam Springs, Ark.
“My first deployment was in 2002,” he said. “I was in until September 2003 for Operation Nobel Eagle. This was for fort protection.”
He then deployed to Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
“Mainly, we were a part of fort protection, like quick response teams, and watched gates,” he said. “After returning, I transferred to the Missouri National Guard. I had gotten married to my wife while I was deployed, and she was from Barry County, so we decided to move to this area.”
Shortly after that, Burgess’ first daughter was born.
“I was working to be a heavy equipment operator for the National Guard,” he said. “This would have been in the 2004 timeframe”
In early 2005, Burgess got the orders to deploy to Iraq.
“I got attached to the 110th combat engineers,” he said. “Essentially, from that point, I went to Devils Lake, N.D., training in combat school and was there until my deployment to Iraq on Nov. 10, 2005.”
Burgess and his wife just celebrated their 18th anniversary.
“I was young, and it was all possible because of my very strong wife,” he said. “I focused on just going and doing what I had to do.”
Burgess said his wife understood that he had his orders, and they just were what they were.
“We were in Iraq with boots on the ground for a year,” he said. “We did everything from fuel operations to searching for IED’s.
“I won’t say that I wasn’t scared, but once you acclimate to being there, it is just a job.”
From a statistical standpoint, Burgess felt he would be fine.
“I drove from Bagdad to the Balad Air Force unit,” he said. “I drove to pick up gear and equipment for route clearance teams.”
In November 2006, Burgess came home.
“I continued my National Guard career until February 2012 working state-side deployments,” he said. “I went to the police academy from the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2010, and I was eventually hired by the Barry County Sheriff’s Office.”
Burgess said while the military made him grow up, he had always had a desire to be in law enforcement.
“My wife Shawnna and I had three daughters through all of this,” he said. “I was passionate about my law enforcement career. It taught good values and it was a great way to raise my family.”
Burgess’ oldest daughter is graduating high school this year, making her the same age as he was when his military life started.
“We have just lived our lives,” Burgess said. “We do what needs to be done. It’s not always easy but there is a chance to be successful.
“Life isn’t without its struggles, but military life has shaped a lot of who I am and provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Burgess said the GI bill paid for the police academy.
“At the time of my joining, the National Guard was the only one who would take me at 17 years old,” he said. “My thoughts were, I’ll take this route and see where it takes me.’”
There are many moments that have stuck with Burgess over the years since his service.
“We suffered losses overseas,” he said. “After that, I was at my first big event after deployment they played the National Anthem. It filled me with a profound sense of patriotism — I teared up.”
Burgess said the announcer asked all the veterans to stand and the sense of gratitude really hit him.
“Joining the military can give you an experience and opportunities for your future,” he said. “It can pay for college and you can see the world.
“I got married 18 years ago, and to me, that is my proudest thing I have accomplished. I have done a lot of stuff, but being a husband and father is the proudest.”