Havasu vet one of many honored this weekend
Lake Havasu City will honor its veterans this weekend in a celebration of America’s armed services. As residents prepare for the city’s annual Veterans Day parade, veterans continue to sacrifice their time and efforts for the Havasu community.
Among those is retired U.S. Marine Corps infantryman Gene Burns, who served in the Korean War. While Burns’ service was a defining time in his life, however, Burns remembers little of the war itself. Now 89, he has lived in Lake Havasu City for the past three decades.
Burns joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946, and was called to Korea alongside 5,000 other marines as a reservist.
“I’m one of only about three or four members of my unit who are left,” Burns said. “The War didn’t take us, but most of us have died of old age. It’s hard to remember a lot of things … I don’t even remember the ship I came home in.”
What Burns does remember, however, were hot, humid summers and cold winters as he and others faced communist North Korean and Chinese forces across the Pacific Ocean. He also remembers poverty on a scale unknown to modern Americans.
By the time Burns completed his tour in Korea in 1952, Chinese and North Korean forces were on the verge of collapse. Enduring extended bombing campaigns, broken supply lines, starvation and a continued bombing campaign by U.S. aircraft, it would be about a year after Burns’ return to the U.S. before an armistice was reached.
“We had the war won,” Burns said, “But it’s never been completely over yet.”
What is now referred to as the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea agreed to the 1953 armistice, no peace treaty was ever ratified, nor did North Korean forces ever formally surrender. More than 65 years later, it remains the position of North Korean officials that North Korea won the war.
Since Burns’ return to the United States, he served as a superintendent over the Union Pacific Railroad in Denver until 1982, before his retirement. Burns has lived in Lake Havasu City since 1988. To him, Havasu residents have always been supportive of the nation’s veterans.
“This town has been for vets since the day I moved here,” Burns said. “The veterans court is the best thing the city could have done for vets … I don’t think you’d find anywhere in the U.S. that’s more patriotic than this city.”
This week, Burns has helped to organize the city’s annual Marine Corps League Ball, Sunday’s Veterans Day parade and flag-folding ceremonies alongside the Marine Corps League Color Guard at locations throughout Havasu.
Burns has a place of distinction within the Lake Havasu City branch of the Marine Corps League, as a charter member as well as the organization’s oldest member. He now serves as the leader of the League’s Color Guard.