“The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat the soldier’s last tattoo; no more on life’s parade shall meet that brave and fallen few. On Fame’s eternal camping-ground their silent tents are spread, and Glory guards, with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead.” (Theodore O’Hara)
Burbank residents and guests joined Americans across the country on Monday at the McCambridge Park War Memorial to remember and honor those who have died in conflicts while serving in the Armed Forces.
Memorial Day is not a celebration of the living, it is not a day to thank veterans for their service, nor is it a day for promoting the visions or policies of politicians. Memorial Day provides Americans a chance to remember the dead.
The Burbank Community Band provided a background of patriotic music, American flags were placed throughout the memorial area, and veterans with American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War campaign caps began to gather. The Condor Squadron provided a “missing man” formation flyover, Master of Ceremonies Mickey DePalo provided a welcome, and Bobbie Cranston sang a powerful National Anthem.
As volunteers read through 287 names of Burbank’s known war dead, beginning with World War I and ending with conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, those present at the Memorial Day Ceremony may have considered not only the loss of family members and friends through the years, but also – as the names continued, the cost of human life in the defense of our country.
For Nate Harrison, a former infantry soldier who served during the Vietnam War, it is a personal “obligation” to attend a Memorial Day observance – regardless of where he is in the country or world. “There are many who did not come home” recalled Harrison as he walked away, still welling with emotion from the ceremony, and unable to continue a conversation.
While most politicians have never served in uniform, all recognize the sacrifices our young make while in the service of our country. The ceremony was well-attended by Burbank’s mayor and city council members, as well as Rep. Adam Schiff and Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Assemblyman Gatto, no stranger to human tragedy and loss himself, provided a moving speech where he also noted efforts to add additional federal or state cemeteries for our veterans.
“Thank you for being here to mark this most sacred of holidays” began Gatto. Noting the solemn nature of Memorial Day, Gatto continued “it (Memorial Day) is different from other holidays. We come together as a community to mark the contributions of those who gave their lives.”
Burbank’s Memorial Day activities included the silent, symbolic Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony, sometimes referred to as the POW/MIA Table Ceremony. The Missing Man Table is a military tradition with roots in the Vietnam War, setting a place of honor in the memory of those fallen, missing, or imprisoned during conflict. The Crescenta Valley High School Air Force Junior ROTC Honor Guard assisted setting the table, while Lt. Col. David J. Worley (USAF, Retired) provided narrative.
Andre’ Murray, a well-known local photographer, and Vietnam War veteran, has covered 10 Memorial Day ceremonies in Burbank. “Shooting” the event, while important, can be painful while he remembers his own experiences in war. Murray gains a bit of comfort by volunteering at homeless shelters, and helping veterans who come home and cannot adjust.
David Gordon, Burbank City Mayor, acknowledges that as a government “we can’t hope to be effective as a government, and as a country, if we don’t respect and honor our veterans and the people who gave their lives. These freedoms (we enjoy) do not come for free. They have to be paid for.”
Gordon continued that young people’s future “is dependent on remembering the people who have sacrificed for them. That’s what they need to know.”
And as the band began packing their instruments, and attendees headed for their homes, the McCambridge Park War Memorial stood fast, its eternal flame continuing to burn, with the names of our war dead scribed along the perimeter, reminding us those who died in war ended their lives violently on the slopes of Mount Suribachi, frozen in the Chosen Reservoir, or on the plateau at Khe Sanh, and those men and women cannot be forgotten.