Harris Hero: Air Force colonel goes above, beyond to help childr - KMOV.com

Harris Hero: Air Force colonel goes above, beyond to help children at Shriners Hospital

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Laurel ‘Buff’ Burkel (Credit: Laurel ‘Buff’ Burkel) Laurel ‘Buff’ Burkel (Credit: Laurel ‘Buff’ Burkel)

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – An Air Force colonel is going above and beyond to show patients at Shriners Hospital for Children they have someone they can relate to.

Laurel ‘Buff’ Burkel’s first career choice was to be an orthodontist.

“I was like, do I really wanna do this for the next 11 years or plus years of my life? Those guys in the Air Force ROTC look like they’re having a blast and the camaraderie and all this cool stuff, so I decided to do that my junior year of college and have never looked back,” she said.

After 25 years in the Air Force, she’s now called Col. Burkel, but her friends know her as “Buff.”

On October 11, 2015, she was serving in Afghanistan when the helicopter she was in hit the tethers of a surveillance balloon and crashed.

“So, five people lost their lives, four people got injured in various stages of disrepair,” she said. “In my case, I had a broken C2, called a Hangman’s Fracture, like Christopher Reeves, then I had a crushed C 5, 6 disk.”

She spent three months in Halo Traction, an experience she now uses to help kids at Shriners Hospital that are going through the same thing.

Burkel volunteers her time to visit the patients and trades keepsakes for smiles. She also answers questions they may have.

Join News 4 and Shriners Hospitals for Children for our Annual Heroes for Kids Telethon that begins at 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 30.

All proceeds will go to Shriners Hospital, click here to make a donation.  

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