Dale Burger Jr. grew up in Harford County and later lived in Cecil County prior to his 2004 death at age 21 while fighting in the Iraq war.
On Saturday morning, folks from both sides of the Susquehanna River and beyond will gather in Perryville to remember the Marine corporal for whom the bridge carrying Route 222 over Interstate 95 is being named in his honor.
The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at American Legion Susquehanna Post 135 at 300 Cherry St. in Perryville.
The bridge naming was initiated by "the Legion family of Post 135," according to Larry "Bear" Weinzirl, a member of the post's Sons of the American Legion detachment who spearheaded the effort with the Maryland Transportation Commission.
The commission, an advisory panel to the state secretary of transportation, has a program for the dedication of transportation facilities "in memory or honor of individuals or groups of significance to the state of Maryland," according to the commission's website.
Weinzirl said he recalled seeing a bridge honoring a fallen hero in the Annapolis area and contacted state Del. Kevin Hornberger, who represents western Cecil County and who pointed him to the program of the Transportation Commission.
He and other people connected with the Legion in Perryville put together the required application and documentation, Weinzirl said, and the commission approved it.
Weinzirl said he expects 175 to 200 people to attend the ceremony, including Marines who served with Cpl. Burger in Iraq and Cpl. Burger's mother, Martina, who lives in Churchville. The event's scheduled guest speaker is Maj. Gen. Kirk Vollmecke, the Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The signs on the bridge honoring Cpl. Burger are being installed Thursday, said John Sales, a spokesperson for the Maryland Transportation Authority, which oversees operations on I-95 between Baltimore and the Delaware State Line.
Weinzirl, a past state commander of the Detachment of Maryland Sons of the American Legion and a 31-year-member of the Sons of the American Legion, said they originally planned to hold a dedication ceremony at the bridge, which is a few miles from the Legion post home, "but it just grew and grew," so they had to move it to a larger space.
Weinzirl, a Perryville resident, who grew up in Churchville and graduated from Bel Air High in 1970, said he has been friends with Martina Burger for years.
Cpl. Burger, the only male among eight Burger siblings, grew up in Bel Air and was living in Port Deposit at the time of his death on Nov. 14, 2004.
He was killed in Al Anbar province, where U.S. troops were engaged in gaining control of the city Fallujah during the war, also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began when the U.S. invaded the country in March 2003 to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. Although U.S. troops were withdrawn in 2011, a civil war sparked by the emerging Islamic State or ISIL continues.
The website www.vetfriends.com lists the names of 72 Marylanders killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, including nine with Harford County ties.
Cpl. Burger was a rifleman assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, part of the 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, according to news stories published following his death. He dropped out of Bel Air High and joined the Marines at age 17, later earning his GED while in the service.
He was two weeks shy of completing a second tour in Iraq and had been wounded, struck by shrapnel in his arm, a few days before he was killed. He had requested to return to duty, his family said.
His father, Dale Burger Sr., was a Marine who served in combat and was wounded during the Vietnam War. The elder Burger died of complications from a heart attack six months before his son. They are buried beside each other in Arlington National Cemetery.