LA CRESCENTA — This year's Annual Arbor Day event, held last Saturday at Two Strike Memorial Park, was a poignant celebration. Those in attendance were painfully reminded of the ultimate sacrifice a local family made, having lost their son who was serving in Iraq.
Hosted by Crescenta Valley Town Council and the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, the day's focus was on Nick Steinbacher, a resident of La Crescenta who had been in Iraq only a short time when the vehicle he was traveling in was hit by a road side bomb on December 10, 2006, ending his life at the age of 22.
Although somber in presentation, the day was a time not just to mourn the loss of a community hero but to celebrate this young man's love of life, dedication to his country and the honor that he has brought, not only to his family but to his hometown.
The planting of a tree will be a living reminder of Nick Steinbacher. It will be planted in a "pocket park" that will soon be established on the southeast corner of Briggs Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.
"Like the mighty oak, it stands tall like Nick," said Paul Steinbacher, Nick's father.
From the beginning of the ceremony, with a helicopter fly over by Los Angeles City Fire Department and the somber tunes of a bagpiper, to the large turn out of community members, the Steinbacher family shared tears and laughter as dignitaries like Supervisor Mike Antonovich and close friends like Alan Eberhart, Nick's former football coach, spoke of Nick's life and what his death had meant to everyone that knew him.
Cliff Jones, a local woodcarver/artist, relayed a story told to him by a friend about his last encounter with Nick before he went off to Iraq. Nick told him that if he did not, for some reason, come back he wanted everyone to know that he went over there to fight the "bad guys" so we wouldn't have to fight them here on our shores.
Jones was one of the hundreds of residents that had lined the streets in silent tribute to Nick during his funeral precession last December.
"A day after the funeral, I was going down Honolulu Avenue and found eight flags that had been left on the sidewalk by community members that had come out to honor Nick," Jones said.
He took the flags and built a memorial around them with driftwood. Each flag represented a part of Nick's life, from his days as a Crescenta Valley High School football player to his service to his country. The artwork was adorned with Nick's favorite saying, "These colors don't run."
Throughout the celebration, Paul Steinbacher would hold his wife's hand as they both fought back tears; however, they also shared laughter as their son was remembered as an energetic, all-or-nothing kind of football player and the type of boy, and man, that grabbed hold of life and lived it to its fullest extent.
Information booths from various organizations dotted the park. Prom Plus, a CVHS and parent committee that sponsors a safe, post prom event for seniors and their guests signed parents up to volunteer to help with the night's activities. Crescenta Valley Park, with Director of Parks Lila Crenshaw, shared the calendar of all the upcoming programs the park has to offer, from cheerleading to an Easter egg hunt.
Another booth, manned by alternate council member of the CV Town Council, Frank Beyt, collected items for military men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Allied Waste Company stepped up to the plate in a big way by donating, among other items, one hundred gloves and first aid kits, Beyt said.
And of course there were small trees given to anyone who wished to plant them at home.
The day was to honor Nick, but CV Town Council made certain to also remember the purpose of Arbor Day, to plant a tree and remember why it is so important to give back to the Earth.
Council member Danette Erickson shared a brief history of Arbor Day; it's Nebraska beginnings to Crescenta Valley's first celebration in 1995.
The day was attended by school board representatives Mary Boger and Greg Krikorian, superintendent of Glendale schools Mike Escalante, Crescenta Valley Town Council members and other dignitaries.
Co-chair of the Arbor Day celebration, Charles Beatty, was very pleased with the crowd and the enthusiastic turn out.
"I told everyone that this would be big," Beatty said. "The community is here. This is what happens when the collective 'we' concentrates on that which unites the community and not that which divides the community."
As the day's celebration ended, the flags folded and the booths closed down, Paul stayed to say his final thank you to Beatty and others who made the day so special.
"From the family and friends of Nick Steinbacher, it is comforting to know how much the community cares about its soldiers," Paul said.
TO CONTRIBUTE ITEMS TO LOCAL DRIVE FOR THOSE SERVING IN THE MILITARY--Anyone who would like to contribute items for those serving in the military overseas can do so by contacting Frank Beyt at 618-8496 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop the items off at the Valley Sun newspaper office at 1061 Valley Sun Lane, La Cañada.
The items requested are:
Handi Wipes, travel packs are best
Large and medium Ziploc bags
Batteries -- AAA, AA, C and Surefire 123 batteries
Camping ’spork’ either Titanium or metal
Small Listerine-type mouthwash
Basic, over-the-counter cold medicine
Administrative pouch or pocket containing waterproof notepad, pen and pencil
Very small first aid kit for everyday cuts
100 mile-an-hour tape or duct tape
Enhance self leveling flour from Magpul Industries Corp, (this is a good way to increase the reliability and function of the standard gun magazine)
Hard candy. Besides the fact that everybody loves a good piece of candy when their chips are down, they can be perfect when you develop a cough right in the middle of a night time patrol.