Friday, June 17, 2016

Remembering Joseph Earl Burlas III - Happy Father's Day

A tribute to the greatest man I will ever know was one of the hardest things that I've ever had to write and yet, it was also one of the easiest. On the dawn of this Father's Day weekend, I remember my hero. 
 
The Eulogy of Joseph Earl Burlas III, Given on 07/23/2015 
This evening I am faced with the next-to-impossible task of finding the words to commemorate a man that was larger than life itself. Everyone in this room has had their lives touched by my father, and many of you understand just how amazing a man he really was. He was a man of principle, and a person who was committed to what he believed was important in life. Yet in contrast, he was also quick to tell a joke and did not stress about the little things in life. He lived his life in a way that I imagine many of us only wish we could, and that is with a clear definition of what mattered to him and what didn’t. With that, I can tell you what DID matter to my father fell into three categories, consisting of his love for our Lord, his love for his family, and the love he had for his country. I would argue that he loved those things in that exact order. And I believe it is safe to say that many of us know or have known someone that claims to stand for principles, but in my personal experience it is a rare thing to see systematically frame their life completely around only those things. 
Growing up, I got to see first-hand that if he wasn’t doing something as a Commander, or later in life as an Army Journalist, then he was at home spending the rest of his time and energy with his family. He approached the duties and responsibilities for each area of importance with the utmost care and seriousness; and with everything outside of that, he brought with him a carefree sense of charm, understanding, and easy going spirit that I just loved to be in the presence of. And I know many people here have their own stories that agree. I believe that if you were to ask my father what he did with his life, he would tell you that “He was a Soldier”, and he certainly was. He would tell you that he knew he wanted to be a Soldier from a very early age, and in asking my Grandfather what the best way of accomplishing that would be, he was told that if he wanted to join the Army, become an officer. If he wanted to become an officer, go to West Point. And so he went to West Point and in 1982, he graduated with “The Select Few”, a name for his graduating class that my father took the utmost pride in. But honestly, that’s where he would leave that story. You see, my father was a humble man, and what he wouldn’t tell you is all the hard work he had to put into it. He wouldn’t tell you that he was told ‘no’ at first when seeking an appointment to the school, and he wouldn’t tell you that he gladly did an extra year at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in order to make the dream a reality. He would probably also leave out that he was an Eagle Scout, and that he won multiple national awards, and that he was a nationally ranked marksmen in competition. He would leave all that out, because the pride he felt inside for having done all of that was enough, and after much deep reflection, I can never remember him bragging. Ever. What I do remember of these listed accomplishments, and the real reason I know all of this, is that they came as part of a lesson. And in hearing of what he did when he was younger, he also told me that he had to work three part-time jobs, and that hearing ‘no’ only made him try harder. And that lesson concluded with him telling a very young me, with “no matter who tells you no, if you want something bad enough, you can do it – I did”. It is a lesson that has helped me through the hardest and most self-doubting moments of my life, and one I very much hope I am passing onto my own son. 
My father sure did love teaching each one of his children lessons, and he had a way of doing so that each of my siblings can agree, have lasted our lifetime. And it’s funny when you look back. I realize I wasn’t the easiest child to raise and was quite rebellious at times, but with the most important lessons as I got older -- he had some sort of old wisdom about him, where he rarely shouted to make a point. He often didn’t even insist on his own point of view. He would tell you what he thought, he would point to where he thought you could do better, he’d relate with a personal story, and then he would let you make your own mistakes. And that has continued from my mid-teenage years to the present. He’d be very clear, and then he would withdraw and wait for you to seek his advice if you needed it. In that way, he helped each of his children to find their own place in the world, and to be independent in a world where we often have to set out on our own and be alone for a little while in order to find our place in it. And as children we saw how hard life can get, but I can tell you that we rarely ever really felt it. When the Army downsized in 1993, my father was a part of helping the Army to ‘get smaller’ and went from being an Active Duty soldier to a reservist. This meant that he could no longer be a full-time Soldier, and had to find other employment. Before he was even fully out of the service, he had already taken up a job selling water purification systems on commission. A very pricey item back in 1993 that today would be equate to a reusable Britta water filter. Looking back I can really see how much stress both my mother and father were under, but as kids we knew nothing of the sacrifices they made. There was food on the table, a roof over our heads, and we knew how much they both loved us. Now my father was a Soldier, but I can tell you that he never treated anyone at home like we were Soldiers. He put us above his work and sometimes I wonder how, because as kids we misbehaved with the best of them and it certainly sometimes drove my mother crazy, all of which he would come home to after a long day at work. But my father was the rock that we could all lean on and be comforted by, and I like to think that we, his family, were also his refuge from the storm that can sometimes rage on in life. 
But like I said, his life was built around God, his family, and his country, and it was only a few months before my Dad found a job working for the Government again as an Army Journalist. And I think he found his true calling there. In the Army my Dad was a Field Artillery officer, which meant he coordinated the firing of cannons and other indirect fire to support Soldiers on the battlefield. While he was proud of this and found meaning and importance in it, I can tell you that the pride he took in, as he would say, “telling the Soldiers story”, was second to none and he excelled at it. In the first five years of being a journalist, he won over 20 district and national awards including the Journalist of the Year multiple years. He was so successful in this, that he was able to take a job working for Army News Service at the Pentagon. For a time, and if you Google his name, you can see that he was also the Pentagon spokesperson for the Army and is quoted in thousands of articles and references in a few books on then current events. 
When our Nation was attacked on September 11th, he, and I know at least one other person in this room, was working in the Pentagon when it was struck. While he has never really talked much about it, I know that he lost good friends and co-workers that day, some that he worked really close with and I believe it haunted him for the rest of his life. But my father was not someone to stand idle and when the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric Shinseki, asked for my father to accompany him in travelling abroad and visiting Soldiers engaged in operations, he jumped at the chance. I can remember my father coming into my room one Friday morning and telling me that he was leaving the country that afternoon with the Chief of Staff but he’d be back on Monday… like it was no big deal.
I think our Dad was realizing what his children and wife already thought of him, that he was important and his beliefs and commitment to them set him apart. What I don’t think he realized was that to us, he had always been a real-life superhero. When he got sick in 2003, and was diagnosed with Amyloidosis, the prognosis given to him was not good. He sought treatment for it but for a while his condition continued to worsen. Now I joined the Army in 2002, and in 2005 I found myself very involved in the conflict in Iraq. It was around midway through my tour, in the summer of 2005, that he was told by doctors that there was a medical trial that consisted of Chemotherapy and stem-cell replacement but that they did not know how much longer he had. At some point after that I called home and was told the news; that he would start the chemo, but that they didn’t know how long he would live. I asked if he would go to the Red Cross and try to get me a compassionate release that would allow me to come see him and he told me, “no, I’m proud of you, I believe in what you’re doing, and I’m okay right now. You have a job to do”. He assured me that if it did take a turn for the absolute worse he would send for me, but that I was his hero and I shouldn’t worry about him. And with all the stories I could tell, and there are a lot of them, I think that sums it up. My father’s life was dedicated to putting his God, his family, and his country before himself. One of the last things he said to us as a family was that he felt as though he didn’t do enough in this life. And when I got a chance to speak to him alone, I told him that it made me SO proud to hear him say that. Because, I explained, that if you really believe in a mission you will never feel like you did enough until the mission is complete, and that no matter how long he lived, he would never outlive the mission of ‘Telling the Soldier’s Story’. But I reminded him how he spent the latter part of his working life dedicating it to giving Soldiers – young kids like me when I was overseas – a voice that they would never have without him. And that makes me so, so proud.
When I look back on my father’s life, I see a beach at sunset – ever so beautiful as the sun shined down upon it – and steadfast in its resolve to be morally unmoved despite the chaotic and violent waves that life sometimes brought to crash down upon it. My father’s mission here is complete. He leaves behind a family who loves each other, each having taken his lessons and served society in a way much like his. Both of his sons having joined the Army at 17 years old. Daughters who became a firefighter/paramedic and one who works with Special Education children. Each knowing that the gifts in life are each other and the relationships we forge while protecting the fabric of what you stood for. You are our hero, sir, and while you were a Soldier here, I know you’re helping to guard the gates of heaven now, until we see you again. I love you, Dad.

I am so happy that out of all the people to get to have a Dad, I got to call you mine. Rest easy pop and I'll see you soon. Happy Father's Day, sir.


"I watched the affect my father’s love and humor had on the world around me, and I thought: That’s something to do, that’s something worth my time." - Jim Carey

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This is Why You Will Fail, Unless...

This has to be by far one of my most favorite TED talks. If you have read anything on this website over the last five years, you may have seen my passion for flight. The moment I realized that I would fly for free, or even pay to do it (as we all have) because I could not see life without it, I dropped everything with the stipulation that as long as my son was taken care of I would see my passions through. And doing so has led me on one of the most incredible journeys that I have ever experienced.

The TED talk that I am posting below was given by a gentlemen named Larry Smith who dares to explain to the audience why they will fail to have a great career. What struck me most was his articulation of the audacity that some people have to use anything, including personal relationships, as an excuse for why they never followed their dreams. In fact, he goes as far as to illustrate a scenario in which a parent who never followed their dreams is confronted by their child who announces that they wish to follow theirs. His take on the hypothetical conversation that transpires is on point.

I was lucky enough to be raised by a father who struggled, but never gave up, in order to follow his own dreams. In doing so, he was able to encourage me to follow mine and always reassured me that if I really wanted to do something - I could because he did. I highly recommend the video below to anyone dealing with doubts in their chosen career or life paths; and offer the video as a reaffirmation to those who have courageously set off to follow their own passions. Please, take the time to listen to his message.

The last part really resonates with me and it's the quote I'll be ending this post with. It made me smile because I thought back to the eulogy that I had the honor of giving at my father's memorial service this summer. I will post the full eulogy at a later date when I take the time to really write something worthy of the beautiful person that my father was but for now, I leave you with this:

From the Eulogy of Joseph Earl Burlas III, Given on 07/23/2015

You see, my father was a humble man, and what he wouldn’t tell you is all the hard work he had to put into it. He wouldn’t tell you that he was told ‘no’ at first when seeking an appointment to the school, and he wouldn’t tell you that he gladly did an extra year at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in order to make the dream a reality. He would probably also leave out that he was an Eagle Scout, and that he won multiple national awards, and that he was a nationally ranked marksmen in competition. He would leave all that out, because the pride he felt inside for having done all of that was enough, and after much deep reflection, I can never remember him bragging. Ever.

What I do remember of these listed accomplishments, and the real reason I know all of this, is that they came as part of a lesson. And in hearing of what he did when he was younger, he also told me that he had to work three part-time jobs, and that hearing ‘no’ only made him try harder. And that lesson concluded with him telling a very young me, with “no matter who tells you no, if you want something bad enough, you can do it – I did”. It is a lesson that has helped me through the hardest and most self-doubting moments of my life, and one I very much hope I pass onto my own children.

"Do you really ever want to look at your spouse or your kid and see your jailers? There was one thing you could have said, you could have looked the kid in the face and said: "Go for it kid, just like I did". But you won't be able to say that cause you didn't, so you can't. And so the sins of the parents are visited on the poor children." - Larry Smith

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An Update on My Life and This Website

It's been a very long time since I've sat down and wrote anything on here which is funny because I know one particular English professor who has highlighted this website in her class. So for that, I'm sorry. I only really looked at updating this after hearing from two people I have a lot of respect for tell me just how much reading my website brought them back to the "beg, borrow, and steal" mantra of what its like chasing down the dream of flight. So with that, I think it's about time I begin updating this old lady. Additionally, I probably have somewhere in the range of fifty stories that I had begun to post but still had to format and publish, so I might start there in the coming days. Unfortunately it takes about a half an hour to format anything on here and that's not really the fun of posting. Still, excuses aside, it's about time I resurrect this project. When I started writing here, my main goal was to chronicle what I wanted to do in aviation and the steps that I took towards accomplishing those goals. It appears that somewhere between me getting my private pilot's license and beginning graduate school, I fell off. So here's to the blank page and the work it is going to take to make this website relevant again. Wish me luck.

As for my life, it's hard to pick a point to begin this update. As of last year, and in addition to earning my private pilot's license, I went into the Summer of 2013 a proud holder of a Bachelor's of Science in Aviation Security with a minor in Aviation Administration. I think one of my major updates after that was my choice to continue my education and pursue a masters degree as well. As of May 2015, I now have an Aviation Transportation Management Masters of Science degree. I think I'll write and then back date an article for each of these perspective accomplishments since it's nice to think back on and will keep the chronological integrity of the website intact for any new aviators that may find themselves stumbling upon this corner of the internet.

Other major life events have transpired, too, and I believe that an entry for each would be appropriate. Most notably, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer this summer. Being that he was one of my biggest supporters and my personal hero, I believe that writing something about him and just how much of a champion he was for not only myself but also our family would be very fitting.

As far as extracurricular activities in aviation, I was blessed to have competed in both a regional and national SAFECON competition with the Lewis University Flight Team. Along with that, this year I'm proud of say that my work with a group of wonderful aviation professionals during my graduate studies has culminated in being published in two separate aviation safety articles regarding Laser Illumination Events. In simple terms, the articles deal with researching the harmful ocular effects of people pointing laser pointers at pilots on final approach. Look for the links to the two articles, one in the Journal of Aviation Technology & Engineering (JATE) and the other in the Collegiate Aviation Review (CAR), in the near future.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to everyone who has not only believed in me but supported my quest in redirecting my life to the skies. I know it hasn't been easy for my family, friends, and everyone else that I'm either away from or have relied on. Each one of you has helped to make my dreams a reality. I've always said that life has a funny way of quietly reassuring us that we've done the right thing, especially when things get hard and even when things are in doubt. So thank you, so very much, to each one of you. I hope to continue to make you proud in both the near and distant future.

Look for the many updates listed above to come over the next month. Until then, I leave you with a random aviation video.

"Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense." - Arnold Bennett

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Flight Before Christmas

Neil Doran is an old coworker of mine from the Defense Information School when I was working for Lockheed Martin. While the majority of his career is based around public affairs, he's also a pilot and someone who really encouraged me to "get to flying" early on. In wishing me a Merry Christmas this year, Neil sent me this poem and I wanted to share.

The Flight Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tie downs with care,
In hopes that -- come morning -- they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,
With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.
I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick."
I ran to the panel to turn up the lights,
The better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial,
"St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their heads,
They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:
"When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,
Then I heard, "Left at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking."
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh,
And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost,
And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.
His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low-lead."
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief,
Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.
He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,
He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.
"Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction,
Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion"

He sped down the runway, the best of the best,
"Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west."
Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night,
"Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

Hope everyone is having an incredible holiday season; Wishing everyone the best!

"I owned the world that hour as I rode over it. free of the earth, free of the mountains, free of the clouds, but how inseparably I was bound to them." - Charles Lindbergh

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Google Reviews the Last Four Years

A lot has happened since 2010 and below are four videos from Google that review each year. I really wish I had found these sooner but I'm glad to have had the last one come up as an ad on something else I was viewing. I have to say I'm very impressed and in my opinion the quality of the videos get better as the years progress. Look for my "Year in Review" for 2013 to be up in the next few days.

Google - 2010

Google - 2011

Google - 2012

Google - 2013

"Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius." - Benjamin Disraeli

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Video on Military Air Power

Saw this video on military air power and was rather impressed. Our military air superiority is a direct result of the risks taken and the sacrifices given by a select few so that others may brave the skies in defense of this nation. The video below highlights this.

"Hitler built a fortress around Europe, but he forgot to put a roof on it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, November 23, 2013

American Eagle Visits Lewis University

For at least the past three years that I've been in attendance, Lewis University has invited industry contacts at American Eagle to come fly out and visit the school during the annual Aviation Career Conference. The career conference website describes the event as being a "unique opportunity to learn first hand from “real world” aviation professionals. [The] conference is designed for anyone interested in a career in aviation". This year representatives from American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Eagle Airlines, Boeing International, Chicago Department of Aviation, Federal Aviation Administration, Chicago Air Traffic Control, Federal Express Airlines, Windy City Flyers, and Southwest Airlines were all present.

This year I was lucky enough to be working as staff at the event and, as they have done in years past, American Eagle flew in an Embraer ERJ-145. The idea behind flying in one of their regional jets is to allow those newer to aviation a chance to sit in the cockpit, ask the pilots and crew questions, and encourage those looking at a career in aviation. The pilots that flew the aircraft were both members of Women in Aviation, an international aviation organization (of which Lewis has a chapter), and were very excited to answer questions. Also on board was the Chief NIFA Judge for the recent region 8 competition who I was pleasantly surprised to see. Below is a video of their arrival at our airport.

"Solo is a solitary word, but in an aviation context it describes a common bond shared by every pilot that has ever lived. It ranks among the most special experiences not just in my flying career, but in my whole life. For example, I have a much more vivid memory of my first solo than of my first kiss." - Adam Smith, Aviation Columnist

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lewis University Aviation Wins Loening Trophy

Every year the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) awards the Loening Trophy to the best overall aviation program in the United States. The panel of judges vote on a series of presentations held at the annual national flight competition and these are presented by flight teams from all over the country. This past year, the aviation program at Lewis University emerged number one.

A little background on the trophy from the NIFA website:
The Loening Trophy is a perpetual trophy presented annually to the outstanding all-around collegiate aviation program in the nation. The Loening Trophy is the rarest and oldest of all collegiate aviation awards. The pure silver Tiffany designed trophy was commissioned and first awarded in 1929 when aviation pioneer and inventor, Dr. Grover Loening saw a need to annually recognize the most outstanding achievements of today's college aviation programs. Dr. Loening (first aeronautical engineer for the Wright Brothers), asked his friends and famous pilots, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Navy Commander John Towers to assist him in judging the first competition. The original Loening Trophy is still awarded today and is considered the most prestigious award at the annual SAFECON competition. The award not only represents superb achievement in aeronautical skills, but more importantly represents the current benchmark for an overall outstanding collegiate aviation program. Emphasis on academics, community involvement, aviation skills and their advancement, a comprehensive safety program, and professionalism, when combined with a pro-active enhancement of the future of aviation are keys for the selection of this award.

The award was presented to the school in an event held on September 26th of this year in the Harold E. White aviation maintenance hangar. The trophy was presented by Peter Bro (Chief Judge of the Loening Trophy Event, Director of Operations at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and Facility Director for the Future of Flight Aviation Center), Bob Clement (Captain at FedEx, President of the NIFA Foundation, President of Alpha Eta Rho, and Loening Trophy judge), Dolores Pavletic (Captain at FedEx, alumnae of Lewis University and Alpha Eta Rho, and Loening Trophy judge), Trine Clement (First Officer at Delta Airlines), and Anthony Johnson (Alpha Eta Rho’s National Executive Director). Below is a video of Lewis University's President, Brother James Gaffney, giving a speech at the ceremony.

The presentation and the post-interaction with those that represented various facets of the aviation industry was a great experience. I'm also very fortunate to have known (and once upon a time been section mates with) the journalist who wrote the article in the schools paper. In the article, aptly titled "Flight team earns the 'Stanley Cup' of aviation" for what the Chief Judge had compared the trophy to, Brent Sumner did a wonderful job at capturing the history surrounding the achievement. The article is pictured below.

In addition to the presentation of the award, on October 1st, Congressman Daniel Lipinski entered a recognition of the Lewis University Aviation program into congressional record at the first session of the 113th Congress. The full transcript can be seen by clicking here, however he ends with the following:

"Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing Lewis University’s Aviation and Transportation Department and congratulating them on the award they received. This honor proves that Lewis continues to be a collegiate aviation leader not only in Illinois, but nationwide. May the students and faculty at Lewis enjoy this prestigious award and continue their work in the field of aviation."

This award makes me very proud to both work for the Lewis Aviation department and to be a graduate student in the program. I'd like to end this by congratulating the Lewis University aviation staff who are constantly developing the program, the members of the Lewis University Flight Team who presented the program to the panel of judges, and finally to the aviation students who have excelled in their academic work and the pursuit of their chosen professions. Good job Lewis Aviation!

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea." - Antoine de St. Exupery