Cody Burroughs said he was nine credit hours away from graduating with a degree in business administration from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale when he woke up July 10, 2005, and walked to an Army recruiting office.
“I wasn’t very proud of myself. I woke up on my birthday ... I looked in the mirror that morning after a long night out, doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,” Burroughs said. “I put on clothes and walked [to] downtown Carbondale across the tracks, and the Army recruiting place was the first branch I saw. ... There was zero thought.”
His desire to join was so high that when a recruiter told him he qualified for officer candidate school, he declined despite the higher pay.
“I go, ‘I don’t care,’ ” he said. “I just need to join the Army. Give me the Army.”
Burroughs served four years from August 2005 to September 2009. He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. During his time, he served in Iraq. He left in April 2008 and returned home Aug. 2, 2009.
“Back then, it was 15-month rotations for active,” he said. “For Army and Marines, I believe, we did longer deployments so we could stay home longer.”
“Values are important to Cody. He’s a member of the [Veterans of Foreign Wars], he does speaking events at high schools. He supports veterans throughout the community, that’s for sure.”— Josh Pellegrini, a longtime friend of Cody Burroughs
He said he was given a “battlefield” promotion to sergeant after only 16 months from the time he joined his unit, Alpha Battery 121 Field Artillery.
“The Army reinforced my responsibility,” Burroughs said. “At a point in my life I was not – I had taken a wrong path, but it immediately got me back on track.”
Burroughs said he wouldn’t be who he is today without the military, adding that he probably would have failed as a professional had he not served.
“I would probably be back on the family farm,” he said. “But just working. I would not be in a conversation about whether I would take it over one day, because I was that irresponsible.”
But Burroughs said not all military personnel are given the same opportunities.
“When you get into the military, they tell you ‘You can do this,’ but they don’t set you up for getting out,” he said. “So a big misconception is they think they’ve got the world at their table, and they don’t.”
Burroughs said he was able to land his first job at State Farm because his wife, Ashley, was working as an underwriter.
“That’s why I got a chance,” he said. “It had nothing to do with me. State Farm is good to the military but, if I would have gone in and applied for a job, I would not have gotten it.”
Burroughs said the military needs to do a better job of setting up their soldiers when they leave, not only with job opportunities but with mental health care.
“We need a facility here, not a nursing home or a hospital,” he said. “A building that has job recruiting in it. That has options for mental health. Something that is a one-stop shop for veterans.”
Josh Pellegrini, a longtime friend of Burroughs, said that since he left the military, Burroughs has tried to become that “one-stop shop”
“Values are important to Cody,” he said. “He’s a member of the [Veterans of Foreign Wars], he does speaking events at high schools. He supports veterans throughout the community, that’s for sure.”
Pellegrini said Burroughs’ door is always open to veterans who need help or someone to talk to.
“I can relate to you and I’m not going to judge you,” Burroughs said. “We can share things together. I don’t contribute to a lot of charities ... but when it comes to lending a hand, we don’t have to move mountains or anything.”
Burroughs said he joined the Spring Valley VFW in an effort to reach out to more veterans and try to keep the numbers from dwindling.
“Look at our VFW numbers in the nation,” he said. “The VFW used to be a place you could go talk to your buddies, you could have a beer, you could vent, be crazy, and someone would be there to understand.”
Tyler Thompson coached Hall High School basketball with Burroughs from 2010 to 2019. He said Burroughs was crucial in getting the amendment passed to build the new Hall High School.
“He helped raise money,” he said. “There was a competition with State Farm, and they would donate to local schools. ... He did a lot of promoting and getting people to vote for State Farm to give a donation.”
Hall High School was newly constructed and opened in fall 2015. The new facility featured classrooms, science labs, a STEM lab, a home economics lab, a tech lab, a media center, a fine arts auditorium, a cafeteria and athletic facilities, according to the Masonry Advisory Council.
Thompson said Burroughs also was instrumental in resurfacing the track later that year.
“It wouldn’t have happened without Cody,” he said. “I mean, he wasn’t even involved In track, but he knew Hall needed a new one, and through State Farm he was able to raise the money, and he got the track field completely resurfaced.”
Thompson said Burroughs’ commitment to community can be seen through every aspect of his work and volunteering.
“He’s very loyal, very dedicated,” he said. “If he feels strongly about something or someone, he will do just about anything to take care of them, and I think a lot of his friends would say that.”