Peter Burks, as you can see here, was the very model of The American Hero: a Trinity Christian Academy and Texas A&M graduate (he was also president of Pi Kappa Phi) who, after stints working for, among others, the Dallas Desperados and FC Dallas, decided to join the U.S. Army in 2006. According to his parents, Alan Burks and Jackie Hlastan, he quickly moved up the ranks, and ultimately the lieutenant served with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. But the Bronze Star recipient was killed in November 2007, when he took shrapnel from a bomb that struck his vehicle just outside the Green Zone in Iraq. Said his father days later, "He told me, over and over and over again, he said: 'Dad, my job is to get my 17 guys home safe. ... Then after that I'll get myself home safe.'"
His family now maintains the Unsung Hero Fund in Peter's honor; says the site, "Since starting in December of 2007, we've sent more than seven tons of supplies to soldiers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan." You'll note that it's decorated with myriad photos of their son the soldier.
And it's a photo of Peter that led Alan and Jackie to the Dallas County Courthouse this morning -- a photo they say is being used to lead folks to the True.com dating site, based out of Flower Mound. According to the lawsuit, which you'll find below, True.com is "attempting to exploit Lt. Burks' good looks and strong jaw image for their own financial gain" by using it in pop-up ads that have appeared on at least one other website: POF.com, which stands for "Plentyoffish."
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Says Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn, the family discovered this in December, when a friend of Burks's was on POF.com and was suddenly confronted with the pop-up featuring Burks's image. It read: "Military Man Searching for Love." And there were other ads too, they claim, each just as crass. A click-thru led the friend to True.com.
Peter's family says Plentyoffish Media said it would remove the ad when hit with a cease-and-desist, but that True.com has refused to respond to its pleas. Says Dunn in a statement released today: "These websites are using the photo of a fallen hero simply as a means to make money and that's just plain wrong. This has caused a great deal of pain to those who loved Peter -- his family and fiancée -- and has reopened old wounds." Alan Burks says any money made from the suit will go toward the Unsung Hero Fund: "I just want these companies to admit what they did is wrong and to stop doing it."