By Meg Hibbert
Hometown hero Jimmy Buriak is now remembered at the Veterans Plaza of the Salem Historical Society and Museum.
Pavers with the Navy veteran’s name were dedicated in October by members of the Salem Garden Club, who donated money for the engraved bricks.
Salem High School and Roanoke College graduate Buriak died Aug 31, 2021, after his Loosefoot 616 helicopter went down off the off the California coast near San Diego. That’s where he was a Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Air Crewman and rescue swimmer.
He was part of a six-person crew who were attached to the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, based at Naval Air Station North Island in the San Diego Bay. Buriak was recognized in 2020 for a heroic rescue of a man caught in a rip current on Gun Beach in Guam.
His mother, Salem Garden Club member Carol Buriak, brought a display of photographs of Jimmy including one of him dangling from his helicopter with an American flag, of him with his wife Megan and young son Calder, and commendations he received.
Among the refreshments provided by garden club members were peanut M&Ms, that his mom said were Jimmy’s favorite.
Salem Mayor Renee Turk and her husband, SHS Coach David Turk were guests at the Salem Garden Club meeting. Coach Turk recalled Buriak’s dedication to physical fitness while in high school. He majored in sports management at RC.
Carol Buriak remembered her son’s rules for success. Among them are: “Do the work. Don’t be lazy; Stop waiting, it is time; Rely on yourself; Don’t waste energy on things you cannot control; Don’t do the same thing over and over and expect things to change.
She explained about the 501(3)(c) foundation Jimmy’s wife has set up to provide assistance to other widows and families of Naval veterans, ranging from emergency diapers and food, to help with living expenses and other needs.
Jimmy Buriak was escorted in a procession from Charlotte, N.C., back home to Salem for a memorial service at Roanoke College on Oct. 30, 2021, and later laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
His survivors also include his father, James; Jimmy’s sister Laura and brother-in-law Eric Zickefoose.
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