GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Burri didn’t used to spend much time thinking about Memorial Day or what it means.

“When this happened to us, it made us realize just what every one of these men and women are willing to do for strangers,” he said.

He lost his son, Eric Todd Burri, in 2005. Eric Burri was a 21-year-old Army specialist serving in Iraq. On June 7 that year, a roadside bomb exploded under his Humvee, killing him. His dad is painfully aware of the upcoming 17th anniversary of his death.

“No matter how many years go by, when those days come around, the anniversary of his death, it still hurts,” he said.

Eric Burri also served as a rigger in the Army. Identified by their red baseball-style hats, a U.S. Army rigger is a soldier trained to pack, maintain and repair parachutes.

“He was in charge of packing every single shoot, and every now and then, they would say ‘Burri, go grab a shoot and go jump,'” John Burri explained.

He also said he was a much different man before his son died. There were several things he swore he would never do, including getting a tattoo and jumping out of a plane. But loss tends to change people and that was true for John Burri. His arms are now covered in tattoos and he jumped out of a plane last year.

“I’m willing to jump any time again,” he said.

A military memento in Brad Burri’s garden.

The senior Burri now wears the red hat his son once wore and while it used to serve as a sign of help to soldiers, he hopes it will now serve as a reminder.

“Many people… post ‘Happy Memorial Day.’ Please folks, no. It’s not a happy time. It’s a time to be mournful and think of those who gave their all,” John Burri said.

Besides his red hat, John Burri’s property is a daily reminder to anyone who drives by of the sacrifice service members have made. Red, white and blue touches are everywhere and the front and backyards are full gardens with military mementos sprinkled throughout. He calls it his “jungle,” a reference to something his son used to say.

“Every time I pull a weed, I hear Eric telling me, ‘Those kids all know my yard because it’s the yard with the jungle out front,'” he said.

John Burri spends much of his time amongst those weeds or in his pavilion, a frequent “meditation spot.” He has offered the space to anyone who would like to use it to stop and think about their loved ones and find peace in the peonies and other flowers he grows as his form of therapy.