Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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BF Burnham was a great soldier, a legend in Special Forces, a loving & caring husband and father . . . S.L.

The sad news came down the pike just yesterday afternoon, the wires have been burning up ever since.

BF Burnham, a longtime member of 1st Special Forces Group, passed away suddenly on Sunday of an apparent heart attack. When I saw the message I cried out loud: "Oh my God!" - I was speaking with BF just last week.

BF and I go way back. I first met BF during the academic phase of the Q course, we were both attending the Special Forces Engineer course. For those unfamiliar with the details of US Army Special Forces training, let me just say that when I matriculated for my bachelor of science degree, sixteen 40-hour weeks in the academic phase equaled two years towards my degree. Special Forces Engineers are essentially civil engineers with an emphasis on explosives.

BF was previously an engineer sergeant in the 20th Engineer Brigade and presented himself very well. BF knew the Engineer Field Manual inside and out, and seemed to know as much as the instructors themselves, if not more so. He often shared his knowledge with us during class breaks, and helped us study at nights and on weekends.

A young BF Burnham preparing for rough terrain jump during his time with the Engineers. BF was the consummate professional.

Upon graduation from the Q Course, BF was posted to 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Washington. I went out to 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa. The next I heard from BF was when I attended Combat Diver training at the Special Forces Underwater Operations facility in Key West. We were still in the old World War II barracks, BF had carved his initials on the wall with a personal note to me, incredibly; something to the effect: "B.F. WAS HERE - WHERE ARE YOU S.L.?"

I already had a reputation as a strong swimmer and a professional diver; BF's reputation was his unique sense of humor. He was notorious for "throwing you under the bus" - but he did it with such wit and aplomb nobody could ever hold it against him. No matter how many times you got burned by BF, you only loved the guy more. BF was one of a kind; when they made him, they broke the mold.

BF was the epitome of the technically and tactically proficient NCO; a master of every art and artifice of war. BF became legendary in Special Forces. He was so well respected in the community, the SEALs had him as an instructor at their training facility in Coronado, California.

BF Burnham served in the Philippines, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Special Forces, Team Sergeant is the hardest job, and the hardest job to get. BF became team sergeant of Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 176 "The Sea Pigs" - they are mentioned in the book U.S. Army Special Forces by Fred Pushies. Post-military, BF started a successful career in the de-mining operations business, in combat zones throughout the world.

BF was incredibly resourceful - the hallmark of a good SF engineer. His latest invention is a mine detector that is totally revolutionary. Basically a passive magnetometer that can find UXO's, shells and any other magnetic anomaly down to 20 feet underground. The software then tells basic shape, size, and the depth of found objects, allowing experienced de-mining personnel to assess prior to digging.

BF with the mine detector cart he designed, taking it out for trials in Germany.

BF Burnham was 55 years young and died in his home. He was found by his step-son Scott. BF was well loved, admired and respected by everyone who knew him. Services will be held in the Olympia, Washington area, details pending. Please keep BF's wife Lynda and son Ben Jr in your prayers and thoughts.

The Good Lord must have a requirement for an engineer, because he took one of the greatest military engineers who ever walked the face of the Earth. When its your time, the Hand of Fate moves over you and its Sayonnara, out go the lights. I am reminded of the dying words of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson:

"Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."

It was an honor to serve with BF, and a singular privilege to be counted amongst his friends.

Fairwell, old Friend. See you on the Other Side.


Special thanks to Sue in the UK for photoshop assistance with BF's portrait at top of page - S.L.


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