McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 15, 2013

McAlester general to be inducted into military hall of fame

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER —

A retired four-star general born in McAlester will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in November.

General Edwin Hess Burba, Jr., 76,  is a retired four-star general who served as Commander-In-Chief of the United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) from 1989 to 1993. 
Burba will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame Nov. 9 in Oklahoma City.
Burba said he was born in McAlester and moved away while in grade-school but returned often to spend time with his grandfather Roy Johnson on Sandy Ridge.
He recalled working on his grandfather’s farm and getting up early in the morning to milk the cows.
“I would ride with my grandfather on a one horse slay out to the penitentiary where he worked,” Burba said.
“The people of McAlester are wonderful, I have wonderful memories.”
Burba is the son The son of Maj. Gen. Edwin Burba  deputy commanding general of the First US Army at Fort Meade.
Born Sept. 13, 1936,  Burba Jr. attended grade school in McAlester during the war years, but remembers that time fondly.
He said he remembered the War Bond drives in McAlester and the metal drives when children collected metal for use in the War effort .
“Some of my most vivid memories of my boyhood were in McAlester,” Burba said.
 “I feel my roots are there. When I come back to Oklahoma, I feel deeply involved … deep rooted. I’m very proud.” 
During World War II  Burba Jr.s’ father was an Army Major General and was wounded in North Africa. 
He said he and his Mother went to Fort Hood, Texas, to be near his father until he recovered from his wounds and went to Europe and the war. 
Then he and his mother returned to McAlester and that’s when he learned about his other grandfather who died before Burba Jr. was born.
The other grandfather Carl Monk was a McAlester lawyer and state senator who set aside one day a week to work for people who couldn’t pay.
“He would set aside one day a week to see people at no cost, many of them were coal miners working in the area.”
He said one of those he helped was a coal miner with Black Lung Disease who was also the father of Carl Albert
He said Carl Albert was interested in becoming an attorney.
Burba Jr. said the young Albert would go to the courthouse to listen to Monk’s oratory, he said.
 “Grandfather taught him to debate,” Burba Jr. said.
He said Carl Albert went on to win national debating contests.
Burba Jr. said that Albert was always grateful for the help his grandfather gave and because of that Albert took Burba Jr. under his wing.
As a U.S. Representative, Albert appointed Burba Jr. to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1959.
He said Albert would keep track of Burba Jr. during his career.
 “He would invite me to do speaking engagements and go out to lunch,”
Burba Jr., said he was seriously wounded on a second tour in Vietnam Albert remained in contact with Burba Jr.s’ parents to discuss his progress. 
He said every time he came back to the United States, he would go see Albert.
Meanwhile Burba Jr. said his grandfather Johnson had the first Ford dealership in Oklahoma.
Although Johnson went bankrupt he paid off his debts, Burba added.
He said his Grandfather Johnson also had an auto parts business in downtown McAlester and the back room had many auto parts in it.
He said while in McAlester, he sometimes visited his cousin, Eddie Crowder, who lived in Muskogee.
He said Crowder became an All-American quarterback for the University of Oklahoma.  He later was a college football coach.
During his career Burba was awarded the Silver Star for bravery under fire; the Bronze Star Medal; 13 Air Assault Medals The Purple Heart for wounds he nearly didn’t survive, and the Combat Infantry Badge, according to John Grenier of the Oklahoma Military Heritage Foundation.
“His command positions are many and include top command positions such as Commanding General of the Infantry School and Center and Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces Command,” Grenier said.
Meanwhile  Burba Jr. and the other Oklahoma veterans will be inducted during a ceremony Nov. 9 at the Jim Thorpe Museum Events Center, 4040 N Lincoln, in Oklahoma City.
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.