Burb's Eye View: Cookies, memories and our local veterans

Doris Vick's dental drill was busted, and the strapping young technician who came to fix it was having a heck of a time.

This was one of those foot-pedal-powered drills, she recalls. The World War II-era technology was state of the art at the time; it helped her clean the teeth of sailors, admirals and even actors as they passed through the Sampson Naval Training Center in upstate New York.

But not today.

On this day she watched the technician, Bill, break a part of her drill. Water sprayed everywhere. Bill cussed like a sailor, which in the Navy one was prone to do.

“This guy, forget him,” Vick remembers thinking at the time. “Then two years later, I married him.”

Vick, who chose the Navy over the Army because she hated the khaki uniforms, comes from a family tradition of military service — her mother was an Army nurse in World War I. And as Veterans Day approaches this Friday, I've found that military tradition has knit together many of Burbank's families.

Brad Welker figures he's a sixth-generation U.S. veteran, having served in the Special Forces in Vietnam. His son, Ryan, is an Army sergeant stationed in Japan. Brad Welker's father was a Pearl Harbor survivor, and it was his post-World War II life that showed Brad how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can manifest.

Today, Brad Welker regularly talks to veterans who experience PTSD. He says it's brought on by stress and tension, which service people experience whether they are combat veterans or not.

“It's good to meet people and talk about an experience they wouldn't talk about for years,” he said. “Since 9/11, the country has been more veterans-focused. Burbank has always been good to veterans — there's a feeling of compassion, I believe.”

Vick has always tried to spread that compassion, not only to veterans, but active duty personnel. In 1966, she began Operation Cookie Lift while on the Burbank High School PTA.

Cardboard boxes wouldn't withstand the wet Vietnam climate, so a neighbor who worked at a studio filled her garage with empty motion-picture film canisters. Vick would coordinate shipments of cookies and notes from girls at the high school, some of whom had boyfriends serving overseas. Afterward, soldiers would reuse the canisters to keep things dry.

“It became a big hit,” she said.

One of those canisters went to a young MP named Mickey DePalo stationed in Long Binh. Today, he's the chairman of Burbank's Veterans Commemorative Committee.

“That was kind of nice, you know? Getting mail was always a great thing, but when I got a film canister from Burbank High, that was a great surprise,” he said.

A veteran once told me I should thank people in military services every chance I get. I don't as much as I should, and I don't know many who do.

Each year on Nov. 11, we get that chance. And this Friday, you can show your support for all veterans at Burbank's Veterans Day memorial services at 11 a.m. at McCambridge Park War Memorial, corner of San Fernando Road and Amherst Drive.

The ceremony includes a flyover from the California Civil Air Patrol Condor Squadron. For more information, call the city Parks and Recreation office at (818) 238-5300.

Vick, Welker and DePalo will be there — and from what they tell me, a community holding them on its shoulders will be there too.

BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he's not thanking veterans at home and abroad, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.

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