Plane Crash and Burn Survivor to Speak at Pasta Night Fund-raiser
Sought-after keynote speaker, author, trainer, Vietnam veteran, and plane crash and burn survivor, retired Capt. George Burk, USAF will travel from his home in Arizona to attend Pasta Night, a Waterford Professional Firefighters Union fund-raiser, where he will speak on Dec. 13.
Brian Anderson, a fireman for the Town of Waterford working out of the Cohanzie Station, maintains contact with Burk, who has quite a history surrounding his military experiences.
“Burk was in a plane crash in 1970. Fourteen people were on the plane and he’s the only survivor. He was burned on over 65 percent of his body and was not expected to live 10 days past the crash,” said Anderson adding, “Not only did he survive, but he is a Bronze Star recipient from the Vietnam War. He now travels around the world and speaks with different groups about post-traumatic stress, and how to change things and have a positive outlook on life.”
Burk has presented more than 250 safety, organizational development, and motivational seminars nationwide, and discusses Continuous Quality Improvement principles and the techniques to apply them to professional and personal endeavors. He is the author of The Bridge Never Crossed, A Survivor’s Search for Meaning, Value Centered Leadership, and My Mother - My Friend.
At Pasta Night Burk will play an audio tape of his second interview in a burn unit, 10 days after his accident roughly 38 years ago.
“I was dying and don’t remember that interview,” Burk said.
He will then show a video, expand on the story of his crash and rescue, and allude to his two near-death experiences.
“Seeing the door, smelling the flowers, and seeing the light,” he explains.
Burk will also cover what he had to learn after the crash. “Everything all over again—how to feed myself, walk, talk, left brain/right brain, issues related to survival, being a survivor versus being a victim.”
He will share with the audience some of his many lessons learned, such as “life is about choices, freedom isn’t free, you are what you eat, and God doesn’t promise us a safe passage but a calm landing.”
Vietnam veterans, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, police officers, firefighters, and parents of a Marine Corps corporal killed in an ambush in Iraq in 2003, Cpl. Ahn Chanawongse, USMC, have been invited to the fund-raiser.
Two of Burk’s books will be available for sale. Typically, net proceeds are donated to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation. However, at Burk’s suggestion, the net proceeds from any books sold at the Pasta Night will be donated to a scholarship fund in honor of Cpl. Ahn Chanawongse, USMC.
While the evening was originally intended for first responders and military personnel dealing with post-traumatic stress, Anderson decided to open the event up to the general public “so that anyone—especially around this time of the year dealing with stress around the holidays—can hear him.”
One-hundred attendees are expected.
“From what I hear, there won’t be a dry eye in the place once he’s done talking,” said Anderson.