Later, after I was born and was old enough to appreciate and enjoy his visits, he was on winter ice patrol in the frigid and turbulent North Atlantic. When a Scandinavian vessel went missing, he and his shipmates were on search and rescue in sixty foot seas, an effort which quickly changed to recovery since survival in those conditions was impossible for long. When his ship came in for liberty, it was to his home port on the Elizabeth River since she was assigned to the First Coast Guard District, headquartered in Portsmouth, just across from Norfolk.
I remember my dad went down to the ferry dock to pick him up as he walked off the ferry from Norfolk. He arrived at our home dressed in winter Coast Guard uniform, complete with the traditional pea jacket. When it was removed, he had a chest full of medals which I had many questions about and over the next few days of his visit he patiently answered them all. He had a tough time with balance, for after extended duty in waters with huge waves, it took time to readjust to a non-moving surface.
The morning after arrival as he sorted out his sea bag, he surprised me with a pea jacket and Coast Guard cap that was just my size. I was so excited I wore it wherever I went for quite some time. I also rushed home every day after school (I was in first grade) and sat on our enclosed sun porch with him while he relaxed in an easy chair and watched Westerns on TV. He loved them, especially Gabby Hayes. Uncle Burr also told me about fighting those big waves and how his duty as Damage Control Chief kept him busy in weather like that.
I also remember asking him about the war and he just looked very sad. He showed me on our globe where he had been but would comment no further. Even a little boy could understand that he didn't want to talk about it. And while he was very strong and courageous, he was a small, but wiry man who spoke softly. It was clear that he and Mom were really close and my dad liked him a lot. I looked up to him as a hero.
As I got older and he finished his service, we didn't see him very often as he moved to Texas and became part-owner of a shrimping business with a couple of older brothers. But on the occasions that he came to visit his homeland on the Outer Banks in the summer, we'd see him again and he would tell stories about growing up with Mom. They have made great memories and taught me a lot about how Mom had been quite the tomboy.
So, here's to a great Coast Guardsman, an American patriot and a man who was as brave as ever I've seen. And I'm proud to say that this Man of the Sea, who would always carry out his duties fully and with expertise, regardless of the conditions, was my uncle. May you Rest in Peace, Uncle Burr, and always have fair winds and following seas in the hereafter. Semper Paratus!