Ezra "Phil" Burke's Obituary
Born: September 09, 1926
Died: February 18, 2016
Ezra “Phil” Burke, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend, died peacefully in his sleep on February 18th in Orange Park, Florida. He was 89.
His passing came after a long life of service to his country and dedication to his family.
Born on September 9, 1926, to Robert E. and Lillie Jones Burke in Philadelphia, Mississippi, he spent his youth on the family farm with siblings Annie, R.E., John, and Eloise, all of whom preceded him in death.
It was in 1944 that Phil first enlisted in the Army as a medical technician with the 21st Infantry Regiment Medical Detachment. He went on to have a military career that included tours in the Pacific Theater during World War II (in the Philippines and Japan), the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
As part of the first group of U.S. Soldiers to enter Korea and engage in combat against North Korean troops, beginning on July 5, 1950, he participated in the Battle of Osan as part of Task Force Smith, 24th Infantry Division, as the senior Medical Sergeant. The Task Force was composed of men from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, and men from the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion.
Later during the Korean War, when he was stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa, Phil met the Army nurse who would become his wife of nearly 60 years, the former Phyllis Gates.
A recipient of the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Phil retired in 1968 from the U.S. Army Materiel Command at Fort Hood, Texas, as a Sergeant 1st Class.
After the Army, from 1968 to 2001, Phil lived in Orlando, Florida, where he worked as a realtor and enjoyed the tranquility of his home on Lake Susannah. Most recently, he resided with his daughters, Debi McKale and Donna Burke-Fonda, in Starke, Florida, and Montclair, Virginia, respectively, along with their husbands, Mark and John.
Throughout Phil’s retirement years, he honed his love of a good homegrown tomato, of the Grand Ole Opry, and of living as much as possible in the present. But he also enjoyed maintaining a lifelong connection with his fellow servicemen. Up until recently, Phil acted as the newsletter editor and annual reunion coordinator for the 21st RCT Association (Japan/Korea), of which Task Force Smith is a part.
By all those who knew him, Phil will be remembered as a quiet and modest man who carried himself with understated courage. He was not one to volunteer war stories or seek attention for himself, but he was unequivocal when it came to the loyalty and affection he felt toward those who were his brothers in arms and who would remain his brothers in spirit forever after.
In addition to his loving wife and daughters, Phil is survived by three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
A funeral will take place at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. More details about the service will be available closer to that time. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to:
Wounded Warrior Project http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ or
Haven Hospice http://www.havenhospice.org/honor-and-memorial-gifts.aspx
Please sign the family's online guestbook.
Arrangements under the care of BROADUS-RAINES FUNERAL HOME, 501 Spring St., Green Cove Springs, FL (904) 284-4000