Fort Knox, Ky. – One of Troy University's Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, who also happens to be a Special Forces solider decorated with two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, will attend the 12th annual Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, as a Soldier Hero.
Sgt. 1st Class John Burris, a native of Huntington Beach, Calif., spent eight years in various Special Forces assignments – including two deployments to Afghanistan – before he entered Troy's Army ROTC program under the Green to Gold Active Duty Option. This program allows him to continue to serve on active duty while going to school and participating in ROTC.
A Business major at Troy (because, he said, the organization, management and business leadership skills he's learning apply to any organization, whether a civilian business or the military), Burris graduated Warner Avenue Christian Academy in Huntington Beach at 15 and spent two years in community college "knocking out the basic courses," just before he joined the Army.
Burris, the son of Ryan and Donna Burris of Carson, Calif., said he had wanted to join the Army for as long as he could remember.
"I chose my career probably in the toddler years," he said, and when he walked into the recruiter's office, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
"I told him I wanted to be an 18C (Special Forces engineer.) I wanted to be on the front lines and I did not want to sit behind a desk," he recalled. "I enlisted in October 2003 as an 18X, (Special Forces candidate) and graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2005."
"I am a very different person now from who I was at the age of 18—the Army has allowed me to fulfill my goals," he said. "My experience in the Army also shaped who I was and taught me resiliency (after being injured)."
He said he earned his Purple Heart in 2007 after being hit by an IED while performing a recon as he rode an ATV. He and another soldier, "rolled up over the top of a hill, and we randomly hit an IED. I landed about 60 feet away."
Through it all Burris said he has stayed focused and enjoys the opportunities the Army has provided, the growth he has experienced and the friends he has made.
Armed with a perspective formed by experience, deployments and war, Burris said he decided to become an officer because he wanted to make a difference and lead from the front.
"The Army Values are important as they give every soldier the same set of rules to live by," he explained. "My favorite is integrity. If you have integrity, you should, by default, automatically fulfill the other six.
"Every military leader should keep the Army Values in mind. If every decision is made keeping those in mind, then it will be the right decision."