Malvern Prep crew

By George Gregory
Special to The CS&T

Each Memorial Day, Americans pay tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation by holding public parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, and in reflective silence. But the rowing team at Malvern Preparatory School found a way to honor a fallen Marine from Texas throughout the entire year – by racing under his name.

On April 2, Augustinian Father James Flynn, headmaster of Malvern Prep, christened and dedicated the Sgt. Brandon C. Bury, U.S.M.C., a four-man varsity quadruple scull, also known as a quad. It was handmade in Germany and donated to Malvern’s rowing team by an anonymous donor.

Prior to the christening, the boat had already been used twice in competition, and the crew won both times.

“Eternal Father, we come here today to ask your blessings on us, to pray for the happy repose of the soul of Sgt. Brandon Bury, who died in the service of our country, and to honor him and memorialize him in the dedication of this worthy vessel,” Father Flynn said in his invocation. “As we embrace the memory of Sgt. Bury, create and maintain among us, whether ashore or afloat, all the good things for which he stood: cheerfulness and courage, integrity and honor.”

The son of Terri Theis and Joseph Bury, Brandon C. Bury was born Oct. 29, 1983 and raised in the Kingwood section of Houston, Texas. At 6-feet, 6-inches tall, Bury was an avid swimmer and a fierce competitor.

After graduating from Kingwood High School, he attended the University of Texas for one year prior to entering the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He served two tours in Iraq and was voluntarily serving a third tour in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan when he sustained a fatal injury on June 6, 2010 as the vehicle he was riding in struck a roadside improvised explosive device (I.E.D.).

Also killed in that incident were Corp. Donald Marler, 22, from St. Louis, Mo., and Lance Corp. Derek Hernandez, 20, from Edinburg, Texas. All three Marines were part of the same unit. In addition to his parents and brothers Brian and Thomas, Sgt. Bury is survived by his wife Heather and his two sons Cole and Cade.

The captain of the four-man crew that races in Bury’s namesake quad is his cousin Austin Joseph Bury, who will graduate this month. He remembers well receiving a phone call from his father after competing in the 2010 Canadian Scholastic Nationals. “We were up in Canada, and as we were returning, my dad called,” Bury said. “I just broke down. It was a really hard day.”

The family tragedy struck Bury hard and derailed his season as a championship-caliber rower. While these cousins were not close geographically, they were in every other way. “He was a great role model, kind and caring and looking out for everybody else,” Bury said of his cousin.

“A little piece of Brandon is in that boat, and every time the boys practice or compete in it, he is with them,” said Craig Hoffman, coach of Malvern Prep’s varsity rowing team. “The dedication gives young athletes something to fight for, and for Brandon, a different fight to join. The team is very inspired by Brandon’s selfless sacrifice and, even though they never met him, will never forget his bravery.”

While this quad will primarily be used on the Schuylkill River, it will also see action on waterways in New Jersey, New York and Canada.

As Father Flynn blessed the boat and commended it to God’s care, he prayed that God “bear her on with favorable winds and deliver her from all harm upon the waters,” asking for the safety of all who compete in her. “This is no longer just a scull, it is a legacy,” he said.

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.