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August 28, 2014

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Nellis holds ceremony for airman, 23, killed in Afghanistan

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Paul Takahashi

About 200 people attend a memorial service Friday for Senior Airman Michael J. Buras, a member of the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron’s explosive ordnance disposal unit at Nellis Air Force Base. Buras was killed on Sept. 21 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device. Buras, of Fitzgerald, Ga., was 23.

Memorial Service for Fallen Airman Michael J. Buras

Senior Airman Michael J. Buras was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and a Purple Heart for his service during a memorial on Friday, Oct. 15, 2010. Buras was killed Sept. 21 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered by an improvised explosive device. Buras, of Fitzgerald, Ga., was 23. Launch slideshow »

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Beyond the Sun

In a chapel full of teary-eyed people, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sisk began the final roll call.

As each name was called, a member of the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron’s explosive ordnance disposal unit at Nellis Air Force Base stood up and replied.

“Here, Master Sergeant.”

After a number of names were read off and answered, Sisk finally called out, “Senior Airman Buras?”

No answer.

“Senior Airman Michael Buras?”

Sobs broke out in the front row of the Nellis chapel.

“Senior Airman Michael John Buras?”

About 200 people – family members, friends and military personnel – gathered Friday morning for a memorial service in Buras’ honor.

Buras, a native of Fitzgerald, Ga., was killed Sept. 21 by an improvised explosive in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was 23.

Fellow airmen described Buras as a loud, boisterous friend who was full of energy.

“Mikey may have been 5-foot-nothing and 120 pounds, but he was a giant to all of us,” said Senior Airman Joel Bomgaars.

“He could push buttons better than anyone I know,” Master Sgt. Kieran Flynn said as he recalled playing softball with Buras. “But he wasn’t a joker; he was a hard worker. No one slacked around Mikey.”

As a member of the explosive ordnance disposal unit, Buras was charged with disarming improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan. Buras was on his third deployment when he was killed.

At Friday’s service, he was awarded a Purple Heart – his second. His first medal was awarded during a previous deployment, after Buras was injured when the armored vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device. He recovered from his wounds and went back to Afghanistan.

Buras was in the process of disarming two booby-trapped IEDs on Sept. 21 when a third, hidden bomb exploded nearby, killing Buras and critically injuring two other airmen from his unit.

Squadron commander Lt. Col. Mark McCloud called Buras a hero, rattling off some dictionary definitions: “Illustrious warrior, one who shows great courage.”

“But my definition of hero is simple: Senior Airman Michael J. Buras,” McCloud said. “He was a hero because he was a husband, a father, a son, a friend and an airman.”

For Capt. Lee Turcotte, the last time he saw Buras was a defining one, he said.

“Seeing him with (his daughter) Maddison, holding her and playing with her, it spoke volumes. He just adored her completely,” Turcotte said. “She doesn’t have him anymore, but I know she’ll always have his love.”

In the past year and a half, six members of explosive ordnance disposal units around the country have been killed in the line of duty, Turcotte said.

“It’s not an easy calling,” he said. “But Mikey knew the risks … He died doing what he loved.”

“Our jobs are inherently dangerous,” McCloud added. “Mikey had courage … He was always running toward danger when everyone else was running away.

“Mikey, you gave the ultimate sacrifice, a debt we can never repay,” he continued. “We will always remember you.”

Buras was buried Oct. 6 in Andersonville National Cemetery in Andersonville, Ga. He is survived by his wife, Emily Buras; daughter, Maddison Buras; father, John Buras; mother, Joy Buras; and two sisters, Samantha Buras and Michele Bychurch.

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