Brian was a Specialist in the US Army, KY National Guard, Company B, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment. He served in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Prior to deployment, Brian was attending Eastern Kentucky University, working on his education to become a commercial pilot. 9/11 interrupted those plans and our lives, like it did so many others. After his deployment and return home, he knew he was exiting the Guards in a short time, and wanted to continue his quest to become a commercial pilot as quickly as he could. As good parents wanting to see their child succeed and get a fresh start, I borrowed the money for Brian to continue flying lessons. He flew all summer long – he loved the planes, the smell of the fuel, the freedom of flying, and the camaraderie of other pilots at the local airport. His favorite plane was a Bonanza, tail N748CH.
November 20, 2003 started out like any other day. It was a day of excitement for all of us. It was the day that Brian was going to test for his commercial pilot’s license. Brian, his instructor, and a passenger were flying out early that morning – unexpectedly, they had been asked to take the passenger to a larger airport at the last minute before flying on to Bowling Green, KY for the test.
Brian’s excitement the day before was beyond boundless – he came to our house to complete his flight plan, and he couldn’t stop smiling. His voice was exuberant, his posture was proud and tall, his love for what he was doing was shining. He held my hand the entire time he was at the house – he wanted me to sit at the computer with him to fill out the flight plan. He kissed and hugged me before he left, hollering out “Love ya, Mom! Tomorrow I will be a pilot, isn’t that great?” I told him how proud I was of him, and that I could not wait to talk to him tomorrow.
On the morning of 20 NOV, I was on my way to the hospital to pick up my father – he was being discharged after being hospitalized for one month. On my way, my husband called and quietly told me to meet him at the airport – after being asked several times, he would not tell me why. I immediately knew something was wrong – but I also knew it had nothing to do with Brian. After all, it was two hours past his flight time, and he was in Bowling Green – probably on his way back by now.
I drove as fast as I could to the airport. I saw my husband’s face when I arrived at the airport and knew whatever was going on had something to do with Brian. I ran past him into the operating base and asked them to call for Brian. The young man behind the counter turned and walked away.
I was confused, the airport was silent, it was eerie, no noise, no movement. Everyone knew what had happened – everyone but me, and no one wanted to tell me. The young man came back out after a few minutes, and I kept insisting he call on the radio for Brian. He could find no words to say to me, and he could not pick up the radio.
I finally was told the plane Brian was flying in crashed just after take-off, killing the pilot, him, and the passenger. It was the most horrific day of my life. I had lost my only son. The air was sucked out of my entire body, my heart was broken, my soul black with mourning. What was supposed to be one of the most joyous days in Brian's life was destroyed in the blink of an eye.
Bravo748 is named in honor and remembrance of Brian – a beloved son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle, firefighter, pilot, musician, friend, KY National Guardsman. Brian never knew a stranger, and his heart was filled with love for others, empathy, compassion, and kindness. He always had a smile.
It is because of Brian that I truly understood what it meant to love another person, love America, appreciate our freedom, and have respect for all military active duty and veterans. The outpouring of friends, family, military, firefighters, and people we didn’t even know at the wake and funeral was tremendous. The funeral procession was 2 1/2 miles long.
For over three years, I was lost. I lost sense of my family, work, friends, absolutely everything – except my faith. My faith in Christ pulled me through, and my faith sustains me today. My healing does not end – it ebbs and flows.
In those early days, I made a promise to Brian that I would make sure he was never forgotten. I had no idea how I was going to do that, but I knew a plan would be revealed in its own time.
Bravo748 has several different and personal meanings. Bravo is for Brian – a brave and daring young man who was always serving others. 748 represents several meanings: N748CH was the plane’s tail number; 7 represents Brian's and my lucky number and it represents a sign of divine perfection and completeness in the Bible; 4 represents Brian’s age on November 20 – he was 24 and 4 signifies direction – North, South, East, West, as well as up, down, left, right – I completely lost my sense of direction and time of the day when I found out Brian was gone from this earth; 8 represents infinity – I will love Brian forever, and in the Bible, 8 represents a new beginning.
In 2016, I was fortunate to meet Bobby Henline, 4 tour Iraq veteran. He was blown up by an IED on that 4th tour, burnt over 38% of his body – mostly his head, face, neck, and arm.
Bobby came to Kentucky and worked with me in Operation Immersion for an entire week. After hearing his story of resilience, faith, and desire to want to help others, a plan was beginning to reveal itself. After attending a few events with Bobby and other wounded warriors, the plan became a work in progress.
In July 2016, Bobby and I began working together to create a platform to highlight Veteran Speakers and Entertainers – those who want to continue giving back to their country. Veterans have important, inspirational, and educational messages to deliver – messages that will motivate people to change their thought processes, not be ashamed to reach out for help, and resources to deal with their own issues, and seek a goal of recovery.
Veterans are also brilliant resources for business and industry – mission first, priorities get accomplished. Bravo748 Speakers Bureau was established in August 2016.
Amazingly, Bravo748 has several different meanings between Bobby and me. Bravo, of course, is military for “B” – Brian and Bobby. The numbers 748 take on even more significance: 4/7 is Bobby’s Live Day; 4/7 is my Birthday. The number 8 represents our infinite love of others and our own personal fight to not give up – we continue with new beginnings.
Bravo748 Speakers and Entertainers lay bare the pain in their souls to share their path to healing and encourage others to do the same. Life is for living. We can’t go backwards, even though we desperately want to.
My name is Jamie Burton and Brian is my son.
Brian, I love you forever. Mom