For the first time since it was dedicated last July, the refurbished war memorial in Two Strike Park, which features 42 names on local fallen military personnel, was the site for a Memorial Day service in La Crescenta on Monday.
During the service, the life and military service of one person honored on the wall — Stephen Frank Burlingame of Glendale — was highlighted.
Burlingame attended Glendale High School, graduating with the class of 1960. Active in sports, he played on the varsity football team.
Later, he was an infantryman with the 25th Infantry Division in the Vietnam War. He was just two months away from coming home after 10 months in the jungle when he was killed in action in 1967.
He was awarded Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
During the ceremony, keynote speaker Capt. Jerry Peterson, retired from the U.S. Navy, said Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend, and it’s the duty of all veterans to make sure that non-veterans and future generations realize what the holiday is all about.
“Memorial Day is a day of conflicting emotion for us all,” he said. “A blend of pride and mournfulness, gratitude and loss, and a deep abiding sense of patriotism.”
He added that sacrifice is meaningless without remembering those who have fallen.
“By honoring this nation’s war-dead, we preserve their memory, and thus their service and sacrifice,” he said at the service, presented by American Legion Post 288 and VFW Post 1614.
“As Americans, we must remember that our freedom isn’t free. It is only possible because of our fallen heroes,” he said.
The city of Glendale held its Memorial Day ceremony at the war memorial outside City Hall.
Mayor Zareh Sinanyan was among the speakers at the event who called for residents to remember the sacrifices the men and women in the military have made.
“To many of us, this may seem like a historical issue. We’re looking back at all those individuals who have heeded the call of duty and have made the sacrifice,” he said. “However, we, as individuals, residents, elected officials, everyone, need to ask ourselves the question, what are we doing to justify that sacrifice? How are we leading out lives? Are we being the types of citizens who deserve the sacrifice that has been historically made? And will be made in the future?”
Gatto said there has been an effort underway to turn Fort Ord, which was taken out of service in the 1990s in Northern California, into a military cemetery.
Federal officials have approved millions of dollars toward the effort and money has been raised from private citizens.
But there was still a “very, very significant shortfall,” Gatto said.
This past year, the state Legislature appropriated $1 million to convert Fort Ord into a cemetery for military personnel in California.
“I’m really proud today to report it looks like that cemetery is going to happen,” Gatto said.
He also said the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which he chairs, approved funding last week for a military cemetery in Orange County.
Schiff said the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to add the names of 74 sailors lost on the U.S. Frank E. Evans during the Vietnam War to the Vietnam Wall.
The ship was cut in half by an Australian aircraft carrier in the South China Sea in June 1969, while participating in a training exercise.
Because the U.S.S. Evans was not technically in the combat zones when the incident occurred, the fallen sailors names were never added to the memorial.
Schiff has been working for years with the administration and successive Secretaries of Defense, trying to get the sailors’ names on the memorial after being contacted by a surviving family member of one of the sailors who perished.
Hopefully, with the bipartisan support from the House, Hagel, himself a Vietnam War veteran, will approve adding the names, Schiff said.
Schiff also told of a young reserve petty officer, married with three children, who was called up to serve. Before her deployment, she found that all her shoes had been glued together, Schiff said.
When she realized that her 5-year-old had done the deed, she asked her husband why he allowed the boy to do it.
“Well, I don’t want you to leave either,” Schiff said the husband replied, adding that, even though she would have to spend time away from her family, the petty officer was proud to serve her country.
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.