Board of Directors | Chair
"I saw the war in Laos both from the air and on the ground and am well acquainted with the destruction and misery that was created. The Laotian people were caught in a proxy war they did not want to fight. One of my responsibilities while assigned to the units that dropped those munitions, was to insure that the war was kept as a "secret". Today, over fifty years later, the lethal remnants of the Secret War are no longer secret but are still killing innocent people. Legacies of War is in the vanguard to work towards trying to clear those UXOs and make Laos a safe and productive nation ; I am honored to serve on the Board."
Mike Burton was commissioned in the USAF in 1962 and spent the early years of his Air Force career in Special Operations. He was assigned to the 56th Air Commando Wing in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand in 1966 as the US was building up its bombing missions into Laos. The 56th was heavily involved in interdiction warfare against the Ho Chi Minh Trail that ran through Laos.
Following his active duty service, Mike went to graduate school and in 1977 began working with the Hmong refugees who were relocated to Portland, Oregon. Working with local governments, to help the refugees with housing, education and employment. Along with the local Hmong leadership, he helped establish the Immigration and Refugee Community Organization, which today serves over 25,000 immigrants and refugees from many countries, annually. Concerned about the negative impact that the US left in Laos, Mike first met with Legacies of War staff during a west coast tour made in 2004 and since that time hasn’t stopped working to remove the unexploded ordinances left behind in Laos.
Mike served in the Oregon Legislature for five terms and was elected as the Executive Officer for the Portland Metropolitan government serving from 1995-2003. Before retiring, his last position was as a vice provost at Portland State University.