Honoring Uncle Lee Burt and the Story of Growing Up With a Gold Star Grandmother

In Memory of Lee Burt-World War 2

Growing up on Appleton Street in Appleton, Wisconsin in the ’80s in the Burt family was about being strong in the Lord. On Memorial Day, one could bet you would be with the Burt family finding your guiding light at Mount Olive Lutheran Church–Gold Star Grandmother Erna Burt’s Church.

Our family listened to grandma when she would mourn her son over Sunday chicken dinner.

We would join her in prayer when she would insist we say the entire second half of our traditional dinner prayer, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”

Many could not fathom the level of grief she felt that could not be put into words.

She wept while muttering those words each Memorial Day in reflection to losing her son from the trials and tribulations of war. Grandma Burt raised many sons, but Lee will always be one who was near and dear to her heart.

Grandma was one of the mothers who was afflicted by our Department of the Army who was notified her son would not return home.

Our visitations growing up were about respect and honor as Burts. Our Grandmother wore the burden of losing a son to war all the days of her life after her son did not return home. Our family understands the value and cost of war.

Having a Gold Star grandmother meant a lot to me when she was alive. We knew one day Erna would be reunited with her son, but her time spent praying in the garden was her way of coping through hardships that kept the family fed.

Grandma worked as a volunteer at Mount Olive with Ladies Aid. Her grandson would always ask her, “is it Ladies Aid because you need hearing aides?” Her grimace was always her rebuttal.

Erna Burt’s Lange family grew up with a heritage of honor and responsibility. The Burt family recalls her singing patriot anthems and telling me stories about her son Lee.

Grandma’s stories always spoke of her son as a brave young man who sacrificed his life to set our democracy free. Visiting with her on Memorial Day oftentimes spoke of the family strain growing up in the depression.

War seemed like a family duty to the state and nation. 

Being raised by a Gold Star Grandmother taught me virtue and value to appreciate those who serve in the military, who never make it home.

Many of the Burt grandchildren never met Grandpa or Uncle Lee. The only thing certain was the war sacrificed a member of our family’s life. 

As told in scripture, selfless service to others could be considered a divine blessing, not an overgrown path of misery.

Grandma lost a son to war. Her example of dedication to faith is the reason I confide so strongly in the Lord in my darkest hour.

Growing up hearing legendary stories of Uncle Lee eventually led me to join the military. Uncle Lee carried several family members who fought in future wars. Some took his picture with them to basic training after sneaking his picture from Grandma’s shoe box.

Grandma passed away while I was in basic training. I never got to say goodbye. I did come to understand she was proud of me for joining and following Uncle Lee.

Having a Gold Star Grandmother and her lessons gave me the extra courage to finish my duty regardless of those left behind. God bless our Gold Star Mothers and may we always seek to lighten their burden.

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