Fallen Soldier's Mom Launches Shoe Drive for Iraqi Kids

The mother of a Michigan soldier who was killed last year in Iraq hopes to fulfill his wish with a shoe drive for Iraqi youngsters.

Army Spc. Eric T. Burri of Wyoming, who was assigned to the 623rd Quartermaster Company, 1st Corps Support Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was troubled by the sight of barefoot Iraqi children waving to convoys.

"He wrote ... and said, 'Mom, if I could, I would give them the shoes off my feet,"' his mother, Joanne Burri, told The Grand Rapids Press for a Saturday story.

Thanks to shoes donated by retailer Meijer Inc. and others, her garage holds 100 pair of flip flops, sandals and tennis shoes. She hopes to collect at least 1,000 pair by the time the drive ends May 20.

"I wanted to do something positive," Joanne Burri said.

Burri's uncle, Michael Burri, said Eric would have been pleased.

"He would really be impressed by the outpouring of concern that the community has shown," he said.

The shoe drive is helping the family heal, his uncle said.

"It's very gratifying to me to be able to do something good out of this," Michael Burri said. "It's really helping our family get over this."

The 21-year-old soldier was killed in Baghdad last June when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle.

While she still mourns his death, Joanne Burri said the growing pile of shoes fills her with other emotions.

"It means so much. He's not here, and I miss him. This way, I'm sort of keeping his goodwill alive," she said.