Jerry L. Burton is a spiritual, deep-thinking guy who’ll never give up on mankind: “Every life is like being a piece of a puzzle — these pieces have value.”
It’s doubtful Burton even has time for puzzles; he’s up by 5 every morning, tends to his and wife Laura’s three horses, has breakfast, does some yard maintenance and then — before tending to the horses again in the early evening — spends his days writing and/or researching for his writing, taking an estimated eight to 10 hours daily.
If his surname sounds familiar, it’s because his wife, Laura Burton, is the associate director of business operations for the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Rio Rancho Campus.
Writing and his love of history are his real fascinations, he says.
He combines the two in his new book, “Clouds of War: Past, Present and on the Horizon” (Xlibris, 2020), sharing with readers the life and experiences of a longtime friend and comrade in arms, 96-year-old Bill Drumm.
Drumm, “a happy-go-lucky” guy, is fascinating, Burton says. He uses his fellow retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel as he makes history, analyzes past events and identifies clouds of war on the horizon that are warnings to humanity.
With the famed “Flying Tigers,” Drumm piloted a B-24 heavy bomber, hauling over 2,200 gallons of explosive aviation fuel, from India into China — through thunder and lightning storms over the world’s highest mountains — hailed by some as the one of the most-dangerous missions of World War II. Yes, even more dangerous than U.S. bombing raids over Germany or Japan, Burton points out.
Drumm also shares his experiences of Cold War crises during his 28 years in the military, one year short of Burton’s 29 years. And, on the book’s final page, the nonagenarian Drumm tells readers, “My job was to do the job assigned to me to the best of my ability. And I did. Every flight made was another pilot and crew just doing their job to preserve the freedoms we enjoy as a nation.”
Then, looking ahead, Drumm adds, “If we are to continue as one nation, under God, then every true American needs to step up — now. Like me, you will just be one person. But if you work, others will work, and together, we can save our way of life for generations to come.”
“What I enjoy doing is giving context — what really makes a person what he is,” Burton said, adding that he and Drumm spent 3½ years putting the 256-page book together.
Drumm also examines events of the last few years, identifying “the enemy within” and the threats posed to this constitutional republic.
Behind the scenes, so to speak, Burton identifies the “clouds,” hence its appearance in the title, of war on the horizon before World War I and years following.
His book, Burton said, “is meant to evoke a reaction — a mission from the reader. … The reader is challenged to act on this information and to become the central figure in the final, unwritten chapter of the book. This book ends, but the story goes on.”
And Burton goes on as well: He not only has submitted numerous scientific papers, but is now working on the first of what will be a three-volume study guide of the Bible, which he said he’s read twice, and, not surprising after chatting with this 29-year resident of Rio Rancho, “I’m also an ordained minister.
“I can’t quit reading,” Burton, 77, said. “History’s a passion.”
He obviously can’t stop writing, either: “I have over 300 story lines,” he says.
He’s never literally observed history in the making, although he’s lived in myriad places in the U.S. Born and raised in San Angelo, Texas, his family later moved to Clovis, N.M., and back to San Angelo — after his father joined the military and his mother wanted to return to where family members lived — and then back to Clovis; plus Wellington, Kan., where his zest for reading began, and Cincinnati.
“I’ve been around a lot of great people,” he said.
Following his days in the Air Force — during their stints in the USAF, Drumm and Burton spent time at Kirtland Air Force Base — and then the Air National Guard, Burton held executive positions in several international corporations. His background includes science, religion, business and teaching, and he has advanced degrees and practical experience in all these areas.
He worked for 10 years at Hope Christian School in Albuquerque. And, he added, he is a former chairman of the Sandoval County Republican Party.
Burton’s new book is available at amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.