By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Jim Burgio was born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where his father was a captain and flight instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Raised in Astoria in the New York City borough of Queens, Burgio himself served as a captain in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, where he was stationed in 1968 and 1969 near Danang and oversaw motor transport operations for the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
Among the 540 graduates of his class at The Basic School, the officer training program at Quantico, 45 were killed in Vietnam, although no Marine died on his 13-month watch over transport operations in Vietnam.
Now, Burgio is working to help create a memorial for veterans on 8.5 acres that officials in Forsyth and Guilford counties have set aside in Triad Park, a 426-acre park the two counties jointly own.
“When I was in Vietnam, when we came home we were treated as second-class citizens,” says Burgio, chief operating officer of Advance Technology in Greensboro and fundraising co-chair for the War Memorial Foundation, which is developing the Carolina Field of Honor at Triad Park.
“They did what our government asked them to do and should be honored,” he says. “And our military now is being taken care of the way they should be taken care of.”
The dream of Bill Moss, another former Marine, the War Memorial Foundation must meet its $5 million fundraising goal before Forsyth and Guilford county officials will let it begin construction of a memorial, amphitheater, parade deck and other facilities, including an obelisk and water feature.
Including the land reserved by the two counties for its use and valued at $1.5 million, Burgio says, the Foundation has raised just over $2.5 million in gifts and pledges, with $945,000 still needed to meet its fundraising goal.
Commitments include a total of $250,000 from the cities of Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem; $500,000 from Forsyth County; $50,000 from Guilford County; $100,000 from the corporate foundation at International Textile Group, formerly Burlington Industries; $25,000 from the foundation at Cone Mills; $50,000 from Marilyn and Dean Green, owner of Green Ford in Greensboro; and $100,000 each from Burgio, from Jim Bullock, CEO of Environmental Air, and from “Doc” Long, owner of Hilco Transport, for naming rights to the Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army memorials, respectively.
Forsyth County officials expect the Carolina Field of Honor will increase attendance at Triad Park to over 350,000 visitors a year from 200,000, Burgio says.
And a new rehabilitation facility the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is building in Kernersville in Forsyth County should attract over 35,000 patients a year, a group that would be likely to want to visit the Field of Honor, he says.
To help meet its fundraising goal, the War Memorial Foundation is reaching out to industry leaders and has received a boost from Fox 8 News, which is running several stories a week about the effort, Burgio says.
The Foundation also is selling engraved bricks for the Memorial site.
“I believe very strongly in the military,” he says. “The Memorial means everything to me. I want it to be a legacy.”