A little piece of Boston in Iraq

3 Apr 2005 | Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

Two lieutenants in a very dusty operations center sit in their chairs, facing one another, heavy in discussion.  Their voices chatter loud above the rest of the conversation in the room.  And their Boston accents are no less distinguishing than their volume.  It's off time, so they're not discussing business; they're talking sports.

"You've gotta' love the Patriots and the Celtics are great, but Boston is a baseball town!" insisted one lieutenant in a defiant tone.

When Lt.s Kimball and Burrill heard they were going to share office space in Iraq together it was exciting for them to find out they were both Boston Red Sox fans.  But it soon became apparent that baseball wasn't all they had in common.

First Lt. John H. Kimball III and Navy Lieutenant James P. Burrill both hail from Lynnfield, Mass.  They both attended Lynnfield High School and went to nearby colleges - Kimball to Merrimack and Burrill to Gordon College.  It's not only a coincidence, it's a family tradition.

"We had no idea," said the 28-year-old Kimball, assistant supply officer for Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. 

When Kimball, a 1995 Lynnfield High School graduate, deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom home was the farthest place in his mind.  But being together with Burrill has brought a little bit of their hometown to Iraq and made the experience something he and his newfound friend can talk about together for the rest of their lives.

"My family owned America's oldest filling station, Penley Burrill's," said Burrill, a 1990 Lynnfield High graduate and environmental health officer for the division surgeon's office.  "It's a landmark that everyone there knows.  Kimball's father is a lawyer and even did some legal work for my father when he owned it.  As a matter of a fact, our families go back for about eighty years."

Lynnfield is an area of about 13,000 residents and for the densely populated North East, that's a small town.  Both lieutenants played for the Lynnfield Pioneers football team when the attended, Burrill in 1990 and Kimball in '86.  Kimball played fullback, linebacker and was team captain one year.  Burrill admits he played the tight end of the bench for football, and eventually played keeper for the soccer team.  But when it came to baseball, both men found their passion.

"We're both diehard Sox fans," said Kimball.  "We first met in the mess hall when one of our mutual friends introduced us by saying that we're both fans and we should get to know each other.  Judging by the accent, I could tell that he wasn't just from Massachusetts; I could tell he was from Lynnfield."

When Kimball graduated Merrimack College with a bachelor's degree in business administration he moved on to the Marine Corps.  His intention is to complete his commission of four years and continue on to law school in the civilian sector. 

Burrill went to college nearby also, but his story is a little unrelated. 

"I just wanted to do something different," said Burrill.  "There are a lot of successful people with money in our town and going to college was just the obvious thing to do - so I enlisted in the Navy."

Since then, Burrill has been in the service for 11 years and earned two master's degrees free from the Navy.  His and Kimball's paths have crossed in the past and now they've finally come to know one another not only as good friends, but military comrades.

Despite all of their grand plans for their own future successes, there is at least one more adventure they will embark on together.

"When we get home, there's only one thing we need to do," said Kimball.  "Get a couple of cold ones at Big Dogs . . ."

" . . . And a steak and cheese at Lynnfield House of Pizza," added Burrill.