Many folks alive today are too young to personally remember World War II. But for those who do have firsthand recollections, the magnitude of this extended conflict remains unforgettable.
The global confrontation ran from 1939 to 1945. In that time, the United States alone lost nearly 406,000 brave soldiers, according to CNN.
Thomas Moffatt Burriss, Sr. was there on the front lines of WWII, and this courageous warrior returned home to tell about it.
The lifelong South Carolina resident passed away recently, at the venerable age of 99. WHNS reports that State Governor Henry McMaster wanted to recognize Burriss’ “distinguished legacy and his extraordinary service.”
As a result, flags were flown at half-staff atop the State Capitol Building on Sunday, Jan. 13. It was a silent tribute to a man who had devoted himself to a lifetime of service and valiant sacrifice.
South Carolina-based Shives Funeral Home shared this revered veteran’s obituary online. It details a lengthy and impressive record of accomplishment.
The obituary indicates that Burriss was born in Anderson, South Carolina. He attended college at Clemson University, then became a physics and science teacher at Orangeburg High School.
During this time, he met Louisa Righton Hay of Morristown, Tennessee.
But war broke out on Dec. 7, 1941. Burriss was soon called into service at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He volunteered for paratrooper training school. Then, while on two-week leave, he came back to marry Righton in 1942.
He quickly shipped out for North Africa, however, as preparations were being made for the invasion of Europe. Burriss wouldn’t see his bride again for two and a half years.
But this brave soldier certainly made his time away count, as he fought to safeguard freedom for people everywhere. Burris was subsequently involved in nearly every major European battle, including those in Italy, Sicily, Belgium and Holland.
His was the lead company involved in the legendary Netherlands-based Waal River Crossing, and the capture of the Nijmegen Bridge.
In fact, Burriss was actually a company commander. His role in that epic battle was recreated in the well-known film “A Bridge Too Far.”
The Shives Funeral Home obituary notes that Burriss was highly decorated for his service during this time. He received the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, three Presidential Unit Citations, a Combat “V” for valor, the French Fourragere, the Belgium Fourragere and the Dutch Lanyard.
Once he returned home from the war, Burriss started his own construction company, Burriss Building Systems. He was also a founding member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina.
In 1976, Burriss was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. He served there until his 1991 retirement, during which time he was instrumental in building the present-day Republican Party.
Burriss also endured the death of his beloved first wife from Alzheimer’s in 1986. Sometime later, he married Jean Wheelwright Dooley.
After serving so faithfully, and in so many meaningful capacities, Moffatt was inspired to document his own personal war experiences. So in 2000, he penned the stirring memoir “Strike and Hold.”
Burriss’ obituary goes on to mention that this true hero is survived by numerous children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The Burriss Building Systems Facebook page adds, “Rest easy Sir. We are forever indebted to your service.”
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