“We’re almost halfway there,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Burke, as he encouraged his Marines over the soft thud of their echoing boots along the seawall that separates the Mozen River from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
The detention facility staff noncommissioned officer in charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron was known to challenge himself and his Marines. His inspiration and guidance was legendary among those who worked under him.
That’s why Burke was the perfect representative for MCAS Iwakuni when he was selected to receive the USO Service Member of the Year of 2017 Award.
“I’m not surprised… I would have been more surprised if he was nominated and he didn’t get it,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan De Dios Hinostro Arispuro, a duty detention facility supervisor with H&HS and Burke’s junior Marine. “Right off the bat, he was the type of person who wouldn’t settle for the bare minimum. He’s a go-getter. He’s a get-it-done-right-and-keep-striving-forward type of guy.”
Burke traveled to Tokyo, Japan, to attend the 10th Annual Service Salute Gala, along with 16 other service members representing their respective installations, Sept. 9, 2017.
He said each duty station in Japan had a recipient of the award, which means both American and Japanese service members were recognized for their dedication in and out of their uniform.
Not only did Burke show exemplary leadership skills, but he spent his time volunteering at the USO, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and at community relations events hosted by the Marine Memorial Chapel.
“I think I’m doing what a Marine is supposed to be doing,” said Burke. “I was honored to be nominated, let alone selected for the award because I didn’t think I was doing anything above and beyond. I thought I was doing what was expected of any Marine.”
At 24 years old, with no real progression or structure in his dead-end job, Burke decided to join the Marine Corps.
“2007 was the beginning of my recession period,” said Burke. “On the civilian side, no one cares if you get a DUI. You won’t get advice on how to be responsible with your finances. I wanted to be a part of the brotherhood and something bigger than me.”
Burke challenges what it means to be a Marine every day. His humility shows that he does it, not for himself, but for his brothers and sisters in the Corps.
“When you join any branch of the service you give up your right to individual failure,” said Burke. “Everything you do has to be about the entire institution, whether it’s about the Marine Corps, the duty station, the squadron, the department or the section. Everything you do has to be for someone else.”
Story by Lance Cpl. Gabriela Garcia-Herrera