By Ken Dixon
March 7, 2018
Instead, with four months left in his second Middle East deployment Burke started smoking marijuana given to him and other members of his unit by friendly Afghan police. It helped him sleep. Five months after the near-suicide, he was out of the Marines, with a less-than-honorable discharge, often called “bad paper.”
Thomas Burke, a Marine Corp’s veteran who received a less-than-honorable discharge, appears before the Veterans Affairs Committee of the General Assembly on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at the State Capitol in Hartford, Conn. Burke asked state lawmakers to allow those whose with mental-health issues to gain some benefits from which they are currently prohibited.HARTFORD — What pushed Thomas Burke to the edge that night on the river bank in Afghanistan with his gun in his mouth, was the blood and broken, scattered children’s corpses.
Photo: Ken Dixon / Hearst Connecticut Media
A group of kids, determined to help Burke’s Marine Corps unit rid their central-Afghanistan home of the Taliban, would regularly present the soldiers with unexploded bombs — mostly improvised explosive devices — for disposal. A week before he almost committed suicide, the youngsters had found the live warhead of a rocket-propelled grenade.
“They were bringing it to me and it exploded on them,” Burke, 26, told state lawmakers of the 2009 incident. “I had to go and personally pick up their body parts and put them in the back of a trailer. A week after that I sat on the bank of the Helmand River and I put my gun in my mouth.”
His voice broke as he continued.
“I, fortunately, had a friend follow me out into the middle of Afghanistan without his own personal protection equipment... follow me being an idiot, and he saved my life. Had I pulled that trigger that night I would have had an honorable discharge.”
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