Friday's Fabulous Flyer
"My name is Joe Burlas and I was born in an Army hospital in Germany on July 20, 1985. My father was a Soldier and met my German mother while being stationed on the border between East and West Germany. I took my first flight in an aircraft at 3-months old and continued traveling as an Army brat living in Oklahoma, California, and ending up in Maryland where my father worked at the Pentagon.
I grew up the oldest of four children and had two great parents who really set an example. Since the age of four until well into my teenage years my favorite movie was Top Gun. I’m told by my mother that I would beg for it to be replayed as soon as it ended. I always dreamed of flying since I was little and as a child I wanted to be a Naval Aviator but it would be much later in life that I’d take my first flight.
When I was 16 years old, I was walking between classes when I heard someone scream. It was September 11, 2001, and an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center in New York. I made it just in time to see another aircraft smash into the second tower and soon after heard that the Pentagon in D.C. had been hit.
My father still worked in the Pentagon, now as an Army Journalist, and quickly found myself being picked up by my mother who herded us around the TV as we waited to for my Dad to call. The whole day into the evening we heard nothing. At 9 pm he finally walked into the house smelling like burnt fuel with a first-hand account of what happened. That day I decided that becoming a Naval Aviator was going to be put on hold and instead I would enlist in the Army.
Eleven months later, just one month after my seventeenth birthday, I enlisted in the Army (pictured above). It wasn’t long after basic and advanced training that I found myself with a set of orders for Operation Iraqi Freedom II. In November 2004, at the age of 19, I spent Thanksgiving with my family and before the month was out I was on a plane to Kuwait and into Iraq soon after.
During my time in Iraq I found myself on what they then called “Ground Assault Convoys” or GACs for short. We supported the movement of engineers and equipment out of LSA Anaconda (just NE of Baghdad) to anywhere in Iraq that it needed to go. My deployment taught me a lot about myself, the world, and what you can get through with the right people.
After the tour life happened fast and on August 12, 2007, I welcomed a baby boy into the world; his name is Joseph Earl Burlas V (pictured below). He is the greatest love of my life and one I am hoping to set a good example for. In August 2008, I left the Army and went to work on a government contract as an Information Systems Analyst for two years.
At some point during that time I began questioning if this is what I wanted to do with my life since I always said I wanted to be a pilot but had never even explored that possibility. A week before I turned 24, an unprovoked feeling of discontentment came over me.
As a boy I had always looked at the sky and wondered what it would be like to be up there; yet with every opportunity to answer that curiosity, came with it a self-imposed reason to wait. Yet this time was different. This time I found myself unable to find an excuse big enough to override what I knew to be true—if you really want something badly enough then you'll find a way to do it.
I went to the airport having no idea who to speak, but knew there was a person that could help. Sure enough, the first person I asked to point me in the right direction just happened to be a flight instructor. He became my flight instructor. The day he took me for a flight lit a fire in me. Prior to this day my focus was on self-improvement to find my next promotion. After that flight, all I could think about was flying. Aviation changed my life with one flight.
I committed to Lewis University’s aviation program and flight school. From 2010 to 2015, I earned two degrees in aviation, a pilot’s license, and met some awesome people doing it. I am also proud of my participation in the International Aviation Fraternity Alpha Eta Rho and the schools Flight Team where I won second place for the Men’s Achievement Award at the national SAFECON hosted by Ohio State University in 2014.
A week after returning home in May 2015, my family got the news that my father was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. We had just six weeks to say our goodbyes. Since then I have been blessed to have such a supportive family and network of friends. In honor of my late father, they helped me to co-found Burlas Aviation Inc., a Nonprofit aiming to “promote aviation to the general public” while using our aviation platform to “help other charitable causes that alleviate human suffering”.
That is where I find myself today. A former soldier, Iraq war veteran, and now an aviator in love with flight. My future mainly includes preparing and carrying out one of Burlas Aviation’s larger projects, The Hope 100, an endurance flight scheduled to take flight in May 2018. The flight will attempt to fly for 100 days without landing to engage the public, encourage interest in aviation, and provide tools to begin that journey. In addition, we will be raising money to help fight cancer in honor of my father who I believe would be proud of the inspiration he bestowed upon me in wake of his tragic loss."
"Flying is Adventure right down the road.
Take a chance on yourself and
open up your world."
Joe is the Wind Beneath the Wings of
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at @JoeBurlas on Twitter
Check out his Website:
Click on The Hope 100 to learn more
Enjoy the Journey!