Kevin Burke wasn’t ready for college coming out of high school. Not mature enough, not dedicated to his studies. And there was the lingering trauma of his aunt's death in the Twin Towers collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. There were other things he felt compelled to do.
So he joined the Army and served three deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan over seven years. Saw unit mates shredded by IEDs. Made leadership decisions that were life or death. Heard the explosion that killed one of his best friends nearby. Signed off on being responsible for a million dollars’ worth of government equipment. Engaged in rifle fire with the enemy while trying to re- open a rural elementary school. Awarded a Purple Heart when his vehicle was blown up and his concussion was so bad he didn’t know where—or who—he was for days.
But Burke still dreamed of going to Notre Dame, something that had not been an option when he lost interest in college before. He went to Holy Cross College across the street and was rejected again a year later. He persisted with the discipline and resiliency he’d learned in the military.
It’s hard not to call Burke a “military Rudy” when he was finally accepted on his last try in May 2015. His reaction: “It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Originally published by Strategic Content at nd.edu/features.