Thursday, 4:30 PM
Hero’s welcome for Hub’s finest
By Suzanne Smalley, Globe Staff
Terrence "Shane" Burke wanted a quiet reunion with his Boston police family Tuesday evening.
He would be met at the airport by his parents, visit his South Boston precinct, and in a few weeks return to a Texas military hospital to get a permanent prosthesis to replace his lower left leg, which was blown off by an insurgent’s bomb in Fallujah while he served as a Marine sergeant.
His fellow officers would have none of that.
Instead, they stopped traffic in South Boston to ensure Burke received a hero’s welcome. He and his family were greeted at the station house by about 50 Marines, some from his company, and about 150 Boston police officers on foot, motorcycles, and horseback.
An American flag, bathed in light and suspended between two Boston fire engine ladders, hung high above West Broadway. A crowd of South Boston residents turned out, as well as the young children of several officers.
As several officers played the Marine Corps Hymn on bagpipes, on- and off-duty officers lined up and saluted a smiling Burke, who used crutches to walk to the station doors.
"We wouldn’t miss this," said Officer Matt Morris, who works the overnight shift in Mattapan and who attended the Police Academy with Burke. "He’s a tough kid."
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and new Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis III greeted the Burke family as a police photographer and a phalanx of television cameras recorded the moment for posterity. "He’s a hero," the mayor said. "A Boston police officer goes over there, doesn’t ask any questions ... to protect our freedoms."
Burke, 28, did not speak publicly before going inside the station to spend time with fellow officers.
He was overwhelmed by the welcome, Superintendent-in-Chief Albert Goslin said later.
"He’s unbelievably thrilled by the reception he got," Goslin said. "He wants quiet time with people who mean a great deal to him, who he’s been communicating with."
Officers also have organized a party for Burke at Florian Hall for Wednesday night.
Burke’s family is well known in Dorchester. T.J. Burke, his father, was elected honorary Dorchester mayor at the annual parade. Burke served in the Marines for four years before entering the Police Academy last year. And when his Marine buddies went to Iraq while he was an officer patrolling South Boston, he volunteered to go as well last December.
Burke wrote letters to friends in the department from Iraq and the rehabilitation hospital. "I’ve come to realize people are people no matter where you travel, and sometimes a smile and a wave can change someone’s perspective," he wrote in April.
Five months later, he suffered serious burns and lost his leg near his left knee when a roadside bomb tore apart his Humvee.
Boston Fire Lieutenant Jim O’Brien, who was attached to Burke’s unit as a Navy medic, said the Humvee was burning, so he and other Marines had to drag Burke and another injured Marine away while under heavy fire from insurgents.
Burke had two collapsed lungs and was struggling to breathe, said O’Brien, who said he tied a tourniquet on Burke’s leg because he was losing blood quickly.
"I couldn’t tell him his leg was gone," he said. "You start talking about something else."
Last night, O’Brien and other men from Burke’s company finally got to see their friend after months apart. O’Brien said he hugged Burke and said, "Good to see you, bro'."
Dorothy Faherty, Burke’s mother, said he was so eager to see his fellow officers that he wanted to go straight to the precinct from Logan International Airport.
Burke’s fellow officers couldn’t wait, either. About a dozen of them stood in the lobby and outside the district station several hours before his scheduled arrival.
Officer Dudley Hill, who supervised Burke when he was a rookie, said Burke is beloved by everyone at the precinct.
Hill said that, like many officers, he was distraught when he heard Burke had been seriously injured. "When I first heard the news my heart was pierced," Hill said.
But Burke’s upbeat attitude about his injuries has kept other officers optimistic. "Terry is the type of guy you’d want on all your radio calls," Hill said. "He’s one of those guys if you’re in the field and you call him you know he’s coming."
Hill said it is unclear if Burke will be able to return to active duty, but if anyone can do it with a prosthetic leg, he can. "The type of guy Terry is, I can just see him doing it again," Hill said. "He’s a great cop."
Goslin said another officer serves on active duty despite having a prosthesis and he saw no reason that Burke couldn’t as well.
Burke has to return to Texas to get his prosthesis, Faherty said, but he could not wait any longer to come home to Boston and see his friends.
"He said, 'Ma, next time I’m back, I’ll have my leg,'" Faherty said.
Suzanne Smalley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.