RADCLIFF, Ky. , Sept. 2, 2020 —
Sylvester Burg spent a relatively quiet Sunday in his Radcliff home Aug. 30, celebrating his 102nd birthday with close family members.
Not so quiet on Monday.
Burg’s family wheeled him to the sidewalk shortly after lunch under the guise of getting his picture taken when several members of the local and Fort Knox communities suddenly paraded down his street in front of his house to wish him a happy birthday. The police led the procession.
“It looks like somebody must have gotten hurt,” Burg said as the police car’s lights flashed and the sirens blared from time to time.
“No, Dad, they’re here for you!” said a family member.
Participating in the parade were Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall as well as Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Foley, his senior enlisted advisor.
Vereen and Foley’s new World War II-styled uniforms were not lost on the former combat veteran as he smiled and thanked them for their service to the nation.
“On behalf of my sergeant major and I and our United States Army, we want to tell you thank you for your service as well — and happy birthday,” said Vereen. “When we talk about a greatest generation, you were a part of the greatest generation.”
Burg quietly shared a story with Vereen and Foley from his time in the service.
“It sounds like you were very impactful: not only to yourself, but also to others,” said Vereen. “When we think about you having to go through the Great Depression, where our country was really on an economic downturn, and then having to go into World War II, what an amazing story.”
Vereen and Foley saluted Burg and presented him with an official letter and USAREC commanding general’s coin.
Burg was born in Wisconsin in 1918, near the end of World War I. In July 1942, the 23-year-old was drafted into the Army and trained as a combat medic in Arkansas, then to dental school at Fort Benjamin Harris, Indiana, before being sent to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.
He was assigned to a unit in Australia in 1943. While transporting prisoners, the vehicle Burg rode in was T-boned, leaving him injured and in the hospital for four months. After being released, Burg said he spent basically the entire 1944 in New Guinea. In 1945, he was sent to the Philippines, where he remained until the end of the war.
Burg said shortly before the end of the war, the Army asked him to stay on. He accepted.
In 1947, Burg briefly served at Fort Knox, discharging fellow Soldiers. He retired in 1968 while serving with 84th Training Division at Fort Knox, after having served in Korea as a supply sergeant, and two tours to Germany, where he met his wife, Rosa.
Rosa died six years ago, and Burg’s 16-year-old companion, Monty — a Yorkshire terrier — died a month ago. Out of concerns for his wellbeing, his children arranged the special birthday parade.
After Vereen and Foley spoke to Burg, Duvall walked up with a letter in his hand.
“We have a proclamation, sir, for your birthday today,” said Duvall.
The proclamation briefly highlighted Burg’s life, concluding, “Now therefore I, James S. Duvall Jr., of the city of Radcliff, by the virtue vested in me, proclaim Aug. 31, 2020, as Sylvester Burg Day, and encourage all citizens and his family and friends in wishing Mr. Burg a happy 102 birthday— and a long life, and many more to come.”