Sgt. Felipe Omar Burgos, shown here with wife Sherene Aki-Burgos, is a 1997 Maui High School graduate. He was wounded while fighting with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.

Maui soldier
wounded in battle
to return soon

Felipe Omar Burgos'
family is happy that he
is returning home alive

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> A Maui High School graduate recuperating from a gunshot wound suffered while fighting with a U.S. Army airborne unit in Iraq is expected to return to the United States in a few weeks.

Sgt. Felipe Omar Burgos, 24, son of Felipe and Linda Burgos, of Pukalani, was recovering in military facilities in Spain after surgery.

His wife, Linda Aki-Burgos, who lives in North Carolina, said she spoke for 10 minutes by telephone with her husband Tuesday.

"He's OK. He just has to recover. He has to stay in Spain until he's stable," Aki-Burgos said. "I always told him he had a guardian angel."

Burgos, who enlisted in the Army about three years ago, is a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and left for his assignment in Iraq on Feb. 15, a day after spending Valentine's Day with his wife. Aki-Burgos said her husband initially was told by an officer that he had a shrapnel wound in his chest. She said medical officials later found he actually had a bullet wound.

"The bullet entered two inches below the heart and missed every organ," she said.

Aki-Burgos, a former Big Island resident, said Felipe was still having difficulty breathing, and something was wrong with at least one of his lungs.

She said she met her husband, a 1997 graduate of Maui High School, while he was attending Maui Community College.

She said she was not sure about whether he might return to active duty after his recovery, but she was glad he was returning alive.

"I'm happy he's coming back in one piece," she said. "I'll support him in whatever he does."

She said another soldier in the same unit was injured and paralyzed.

Linda Burgos said she did not have a clear idea of the circumstances that led to her son's injury and the nature of his condition but was happy that he was out of Iraq.

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry," she said. "I'm happy he's no longer in the war zone. I'm hurt that he's hurt."

Burgos said her family has a military tradition and was proud to be serving their country.

She said her husband, a retired Army sergeant who once worked as a recruiter, had signed up their second-oldest son, Richard, to enlist in the military.

She said Richard, 38, who also worked as an Army recruiter, had signed up Felipe to join the service.

Burgos said her stepfather served in military intelligence, and she has a niece and nephew in the military.

Felipe Burgos said that Richard, who is based in Seattle, is on standby and may be deployed in Iraq.

"The type of job he has in the military might require him to be activated, but it hasn't happened up until now," he said.

Aki-Burgos said she thought it was "wrong" for people to be protesting against the Iraq war while American soldiers were risking their lives on behalf of their country.

"It only brings down their morale," she said. "They need some kind of boost."

Aki-Burgos said she hopes to go on a cruise to Puerto Rico with her husband after he has recovered enough to travel, but she is not sure about his immediate future.

"He might not get leave because we are in a war," she said.

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