Family of Salem sailor killed in helicopter crash celebrates the life of their own personal ‘Captain America’

Roanoke Valley News

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — The Buriak family gathered at Roanoke College to celebrate the life of Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James “Jimmy” Buriak, a Salem native who died on Aug. 31 in the crash of an MH-60S U.S. Navy helicopter from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

The helicopter crashed into the Pacific Ocean while conducting routine flight operations off the coast of San Diego.  

Buriak was part of a six-person crew on the Seahawk helicopter, as well as one of the five crewmembers who died in the crash. 

In 2020, Buriak was recognized for rescuing a man caught in a rip current on Gun Beach in Guam.

His loved ones say Buriak was the closest thing to Captain America they had seen. Retired Chaplain Paul Henrickson described how tough he was.

“He was huge,” said Henrickson. “The stuff he could do, jumping out of helicopters, going after people, that’s what he did. He loved it.”

Buriak is survived by his wife and 15-month old son, whom Henrickson says needs to be reminded of the great man his father was as he grows up.

“Somebody has to tell his son about his noble and brave father and,” Hendrickson said with a pause, “that’s our job now.”

Buriak’s former childhood lacrosse coach, Chris Pollock, spoke about what he saw in Buriak at a young age.

“He was just a great kid. Great to be around. Great leader. Just loved to mix it up. All-around great kid,” Pollock said.

The fallen Navy crewman will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. Online condolences can be made by visiting the funeral home’s website, www.johnmoakey.com.

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