All Burbank resident Mickey DePalo wants to do is make sure that no veteran feels they are being forgotten.
Whether it is a small pat on the back, or care packages sent overseas, DePalo has made it his mission to support the servicemen and women defending the country, like he did many years ago.
"As long as the good Lord's willing, I'm going to do this for as long as I can," DePalo said. "Being a veteran myself, it's a real part of me and I enjoy working with all the individuals. There's no political ax to grind. All we want to do is be there for the men and women that serve their country — and be there for their families."
Because of his continued work to help veterans living in and around Burbank, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) named DePalo, 70, the 43rd District's Veteran of the Year.
DePalo, chairman of the Burbank Veterans Committee, was honored Wednesday during a luncheon in Sacramento, where he had the chance to meet Friedman and tour the area.
"Doing what we do here in the city of Burbank for our veterans and their families is all thanks to the support that I get here," he said. "My colleagues from the Veterans Committee, city staff and City Council, they make it so easy for us to do what we can for the veterans and their families."
It is not the first time DePalo has been commended for his work. In 2011, the Burbank Assn. of Realtors named him Citizen of the Year and in 2009, then-Assemblyman Paul Krekorian chose DePalo to be his pick for Veteran of the Year.
The lifelong Burbank resident served in the Army during the Vietnam War for two years and became a military police sergeant at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas after being discharged by the Army.
After the war, DePalo had a 42-year career with the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department and retired in 2008. However, DePalo said that he has been volunteering and helping veterans since 1988.
While most volunteering time is spent with the Burbank Veterans Committee, DePalo is also active with several other groups, such as the Burbank Elks Lodge, Glendale Wellness Works and La Crescenta Veterans Coalition.
"The great thing about veterans is that we served our country, but we continue to serve our community," he said. "There are so many veterans out there that do this and go unnoticed. I do this because I want to and I feel that I'm, in some small way, contributing to not only the older veterans but also the younger veterans that are just trying to come back to the civilian life."
DePalo has a soft spot in his heart for servicemen and women who are trying to readjust to post-duty life, saying that it is not easy for someone to make that transition.
Understanding that the pressure may be too much for veterans, DePalo assists Glendale Wellness Works with its Not on Our Watch ceremony, which brings awareness to the community about veterans who commit suicide.
An effort that means a lot to DePalo is the Burbank Veterans Committee's Hands Across the Battlefield program, for which numerous volunteers fill boxes with comfort items — a new pair of socks, books, toiletries and thank-you letters — to active servicemen and women stationed all over the world.
"Last year, we packaged over 800 boxes with items to send to troops overseas," he said. "We send all of those packages right before Christmas, just in time for them to get care packages from our city and letting them know that they're not being forgotten and we support their mission."
The next major project DePalo will be taking part in is the city's renovation to the war memorial at McCambridge Park, which was installed on Veterans Day in 1988. Construction is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2018.