Change of Mission from Jay Burzak

Shocked. Numbed. Angered. Those involved in the profession of arms develop not an ambivalence but grudging acquiescence that in combat they or someone close may, no will, be here one moment and abruptly gone the next.

Pat was supposed to be beyond that. Beyond the exigencies and vicissitudes of life on point. He had spent his time in hell and was enjoying retirement, fiercely relating the accomplishments of Joanie and his boys as well as lavishly living life anew through the eyes of his grand daughters.

Blessed with an ever agile mind, acerbic wit and avuncular personality he was forever waxing eloquently on issues he found amusing or more likely ironic. I can still hear his slightly high pitched inhaled nasal laugh resonate as he relates a joke. . . And I smile and take pause to reflect.

Why am I angry? On deeper and more honest introspection my anger is in part due to the selfish loss of camaraderie. For this I feel ashamed and apologize but compelled to explain.

My association with Pat goes back to March of 1982, when it was strongly suggested by the general officer, Head of Manpower, that I, in executing a permanent change in station from the West coast to fill Pat’s vacant seat as Marine Officer Instructor at the College of the Holy Cross, may want to stop enroute at the Ninth District Headquarters in Kansas City and pick the brains of the last occupant. Something about decoding the Jesuit mind set that had vexed finding suitable replacement. A general officer’s suggestions is a fait accompli. I had the pleasure of picking Pat’s brains ever since and so glad for the general’s suggestion.

From the first encounter we bonded in a friendship that crossed continents, hemispheres and the entire planet. I am not unique in this experience but Pat was in his ability to rapidly access others and if he like them grant admission to his pantheon of friends. His Rolodex runneth over but there was always room for more.

Pat and I most recently would shamelessly commiserate over dinner and a healthy amount of beer, sharing similar life events or perspectives or swapping ribald sea stories or tales of high adventure gallivanting the globe. Stopping only when either out of beer or unable to stand and render honors whenever a new bottle was tapped. (Pat’s bottle opener would play a rendition of the Marine Corps Hymn when applied to its intended use, although the inability to stand may have more to due to aged bladders than the affect of alcohol.) Beer consumption was a skill we both honed among the many Milwaukee breweries during our time as midshipmen at Marquette NROTC although I having been ten years in his trace.

The Corps being as small as it is, we found ourselves sharing many things and people in common. It seems we were many times like that. A friend, confidant, comrade, he even somewhat an older brother.

Life is a quixotic fox hole. Apparently Higher Power determined his mission here complete. Directly and simply put Pat received a change of orders to immediately proceed and report. Accepting, he could give but a single answer; Aye, aye!

Guard the streets well. I will miss you Marine.

Semper Fi

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