Family, friends plant tree in memory of fallen Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman Ashley J. Cass
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Kneeling quietly beside a small tree, Erin Berky gently packed the soil, as thoughts of her husband and best friend rambled through her mind. His smile, his touch, his kiss, his voice. All taken away too soon.

Erin was joined by more than 30 friends and family during a private gathering on M Hill at Hanson Larsen Memorial Park in Rapid City, S.D. early June 29 to plant a hackberry tree to commemorate the adventurous life of her husband, Staff Sgt. Bryan Berky. Berky was an explosive ordnance disposal craftsman assigned to the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron who died from wounds he sustained while under enemy fire during a combat operation near Bala Baluk, Afghanistan Sept. 12, 2009.

Berky said she chose the park as a memorial site because it was a favorite recreational spot for her husband.

"He loved to `boulder' at Beacon Rock and loved to go fishing in the creeks around here," Mrs. Berky said. "One time, when our son was only two months old, we brought him out here in the stroller. Bryan pointed to the rock face on this hill and said, `Someday I'm going to climb that'."

Tech. Sgt. Jayson Wells, 28th CES EOD NCO in charge, worked with Berky and said he has become closer to him through interacting with his friends and family.

"The thing I remember most about Bryan is that he was full of life," Wells said. "There isn't anybody who wouldn't have liked Bryan."

Although her original plan was to have a small group at the hill with her, Berky was happy so many people joined the remembrance. She said it was evidence of how many lives her husband had touched.

"I am overwhelmed...I'm speechless," Berky said. "It's great to see this turn into something so huge, because Bryan's personality was so huge."

Berky said her husband did not get the chance to climb the rock face he had pointed out, but now there will always be a part of him there.

"It's fitting to plant a tree here," she said. "It's fitting to put something here that is as rooted in the outdoors as Bryan was."

Wells said his friend's selfless service will never be forgotten.

"He made the ultimate sacrifice," Wells said. "It's sacrifices like his that ensure us our freedom."