Howell Post Office Renamed To Honor Life & Legacy Of Donald Burgett
June 14, 2019
There was a large reception today at the Howell Post Office for a ceremony recognizing the renaming of the building in honor of longtime Howell resident and decorated war hero Donald R. Burgett.
The post office on South Michigan Avenue was officially dedicated as the “Sergeant Donald Burgett Post Office” at the event that drew a crowd of family, friends, colleagues, elected officials and anyone that was touched by the man that is often said to have been “larger than life”. Burgett passed away in 2017 at the age of 91 but left a legacy behind that won’t soon be forgotten. Burgett served as a rifleman and machine-gunner in the 101st Airborne Division’s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. His service included parachuting into Normandy on D-Day, then into the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden, and at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He helped liberate four concentration camps and received the French Legion of Honour, a Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star. His lectures are kept in the Library of Congress and he has written several books, one of which received an endorsement from President Eisenhower.
Burgett’s daughter, Renee, says the honor of renaming the post office after her dad means “everything” to the family and that it personifies who he was. Renee tells WHMI, “He was an incredible father as well, but he was always a paratrooper first…before he was a husband, a son, a father, a brother…He was amazing and I look back…we didn’t realize the gift we had right there in our living room.”
The effort to rename the post office was led by former Congressman Mike Bishop, who introduced legislation for the designation. House Bill 6020 acknowledging the new designation passed and was signed into law in December. At the ceremony, Bishop said his inspiration was to preserve Burgett’s legacy and reflected on the Normandy landings on June 6th, 1944. Bishop reminded guests that Burgett was just 19 years old when he went off to serve stating, “He was a diminutive 140 lb. teenager…who was clutching a strap inside a transport plane preparing to jump out of that plane behind German lines…We acknowledge his indispensable contribution to the greatness of this nation and his legacy.”
Burgett was also an active member of several veterans’ organizations including the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and the Military Order of the Cootie. But American Legion Devereaux Post 141 Senior Vice Commander Mark Kovach (pictured right) spoke about how Burgett was also a loving father and his longtime friend. Kovach was a preteen when he first met Burgett, who was a friend of his father’s. Kovach shared Burgett’s influence on him as a person and his decision to also serve in the Airborne Division. Kovach tells WHMI Burgett was always cracking jokes and making others laugh adding, “I think after all that he went through, it was a treat for him to enjoy life and laugh and have fun…I feel very blessed that this guy was in my life to help me and give me direction.”
Guests say it was fitting that the dedication was held not only on Flag Day, but also on the same day in 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized the enlistment of expert rifleman to serve the united colonies for one year, making it the birthday of the Army. Mayor Nick Proctor also introduced at the ceremony a proclamation on behalf of the City of Howell recognizing June 14th, 2019 as “Donald R. Burgett Day” in the municipality.
Other elected officials that were present at the ceremony and offered remarks included U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, State Senator Lana Theis, State Representatives Hank Vaupel and Ann Bollin, and members of the county’s Board of Commissioners. (DK)