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Military Appreciation Day 11/20: Captain Byron E. "Gene" Burns

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As part of Military Appreciation Day at Saturday's football game vs. Troy we'll be honoring several members of the United States Military during a special presentation and featuring their stories on Spurs Up Blog this week.

Captain Byron E. "Gene" Burns

burns_byron-e_01.jpgBurns, a 1941 graduate of South Carolina, was an Infantry Unit Commander in World War II. After basic training he attended Officer School and quickly ascended to Second Lieutenant and was sent to train the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd fought in Italy and later in the southern invasion of France. Burns' battalion earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for their role in helping rescue a "lost battalion" that had been cut off by the Germans.

Also during the fighting in this area, Burns was hit by shrapnel from a German artillery burst. Thanks to a locket given to him by his wife, the burning-hot shell fragment did not injure him. Burns has this locket today, still bent from the day it saved him from a painful wound. Burns would go on to take command of his unit after his commander was killed in battle. The 442nd would return to Italy, charged with capturing fleeing Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Italian partisans beat them to it, capturing and executing Mussolini. After the end of the war, the 442nd returned to Newport News, Virginia, and Burns continued on to Fort Bragg in North Carolina where he would later separate from the Army on February 19, 1946.

Burns earned the following awards and honors during his service: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with bronze oak leaf cluster, and a Combat Infantry Badge.
 
Biographical information courtesy of Laurens County Hall of Heroes to which Burns was inducted in September 2009.

- Brittany Lane, Spurs Up Blog

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