Written by Alexis Barton
On August 31st, Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James Buriak tragically passed away in a helicopter crash off the coast of San Diego, CA. The Salem native and Roanoke College graduate had served his country proudly since January of 2017 when he enlisted in the United States Navy. His career as a rescue swimmer within his sea combat squadron was driven by his bravery and selflessness. Buriak was even awarded for these characteristics in 2020 after he rescued a near-drowning individual off of the coast of Guam. In an interview with The Roanoke Times following the event, Buriak’s humility was on full display, as he stated, “I would like to think regardless of who it was, they would have done the same. Someone said they needed help, and anyone would do the same in my shoes” (Petska, 2020). By his colleagues, his family, and the RC community alike, James Buriak will be remembered as a hero who was dedicated to his family, friends, and his country.
Buriak is survived by his wife, Megan, and their son, Caulder; his parents, Jim, a retired HHP professor, and Carol Buriak; his sister, Laura, and his brother-in-law, Erik.
On Tuesday, October 26th, a motorcade made its way through the Salem area. Students and community members gathered on Market Street and outside of the Cregger Center to pay their respects to Buriak’s motorcade. Virginia State Police, Roanoke College Campus Safety, Salem Police Department, and the Salem Fire Department helped coordinate the motorcade.
On Saturday, October 30th there will be an event honoring the legacy of James Buriak in the Olin Hall Courtyard from 1 PM to 4 PM. The family invites all members of the campus community to share memories, give thanks, and remember James’ life. For those interested, there is a GoFundMe page to benefit Megan and Caulder Buriak as they grieve the loss of their husband and father.