Aaron "Dale" Burkeen was a brother of two sisters, son of proud parents, a committed father of two, and loving husband of Rhonda. His life was cut short by an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Burkeen family of the Sandtown community is what many would consider a tight-knit group. Word spread quickly when they found out one of their family members was among eleven who died.
Claudie Embry, Burkeen's first cousin, said he was shocked when he first heard the devastating news.
"I couldn't believe it. It's still hard to believe," said Embry. "Not Dale, you know. It's just hard to believe he's really gone."
The last time Embry saw Burkeen was Easter of this year. He had no idea that would be his only chance to say good-bye. Now Embry is mourning the loss of a cousin who played a vital role in his own life.
"Me and him grew up like brothers more than cousins," said Embry.
Embry says the unique friendship he shared with Burkeen is irreplaceable. They used to hunt together, swim together, and play with their dogs together. No matter what they were doing, Embry said he always knew he could count on Dale.
"Dale was the type of person who would help anybody," he said. "It could be a stranger on a street. If he saw that they truly needed help, Dale would stop and help. That's just the type of person Dale was."
Burkeen had two children, Timothy and Aryn. Embry remembers him taking on fatherhood naturally and embracing his nieces and nephews as well.
"He had two kids of his own, but he was a father to all of our kids," Embry said.
And the reason why he was so good with the kids?
"He was a big kid at heart himself," said Embry.
DeepWater Horizon crew members called Burkeen "Big D". It was a nickname that stuck on the rig. Back home, family members called him by his initials, A.D.
In Part 3, the family member to whom Dale was closest, his sister, will speak about the brother she lost.