By Rick Assad
Veterans Day is a nationwide opportunity to remember those brave men and women who served in the military and also honor those individuals who did not make it back home.
On a sun-swept Thursday morning and early afternoon at McCambridge Park War Memorial, Veterans Day was held before numerous dignitaries and hundreds of people.
The ceremony was presented by the City of Burbank and the Burbank Veterans Committee.
Mickey DePalo hosted the 75-minute event which began with a flyover by the Condor Squadron, which was sponsored by the Cusumano Real Estate Group.
Some of the dignitaries included Congressman Adam Schiff, Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos, highly-decorated Vietnam War veteran Gregory J. Alaimo, who was given the key to the city, actor Joe Mantegna, and country singer/songwriter and actress Heidi-Marie Ferren, who sang the National Anthem, “Amazing Grace” and an original song she wrote titled, “Eyes Of A Soldier.”
Schiff has served in the House of Representatives since 2001 and has also represented California’s 28th Congressional District since 2013.
“This is, I think, one of the most meaningful days of the year because we are recognizing people that left their homes to serve and to protect our country all over the world. They risked their lives and some lost their lives,” said Schiff. “We owe them everything. I feel it quite keenly, as the son of a veteran. I’m enormously proud of my father’s service.”
Schiff told a story about how his 93-year-old father wanted to enlist toward the end of World War II, despite the protestations of his mother.
Mantegna, a producer, director, and writer, is a longtime supporter of the military and was on hand for the festivities.
“I live in Burbank. I’m proud of this city because of what they do to take the time and energy and the effort to honor veterans as they do on Veterans Day,” he said. “I’m not a political person. I don’t follow politics in terms of one versus the other so much. But I support our military 100 percent, because, thank God, they give us the ability to vote for who we want to and to live in the country we live in.”
Burbank resident David Swanson, who served and saw duty in Vietnam from 1967 to the middle of 1968, was also on hand to pay his respects.
“It’s very similar to Memorial Day. You’re here to honor everyone that you served with and with everyone you lost,” he said. “It is just to honor their memories.”
Swanson talked about someone who didn’t come home. “My company sergeant, the day I was wounded, was hit several times and still commandeered the company and was actually awarded the [Congressional] Medal of Honor for his actions. He was killed,” he said.
Swanson recalled something that Prince Harry recently said. “You can see the physical scars, but you can’t see the emotional scars,” he said of being in war.
Burbank High graduate and Burbank resident Steven Seekins served time in Vietnam from January 1968 to January 1969, was also in attendance.
“I was 23. I was an old man compared to my squad. They were 18 and 19. Looking back on it, there’s a part of it that you say helped make me who I am, so in that sense, it was an okay thing, but you also lost three years of your life to service in the military,” said Seekins.
Seekins added: “I come to these events because it’s a way for me to honor the memories of those who were not lucky enough to come home,” he said. “Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. It’s a day to honor all veterans.”
DePalo was a longtime employee of the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department.
“We’ve been doing this for 33 years to be exact. To be able to come here and MC the ceremonies means so much to me. I’m so honored to do it. It helps me deal with things that I experienced,” he said. “Knowing that I’m here, reaching out to other people and trying to help them. I was taught very young to serve others. The military taught me that too. Being part of a team. We’re all brothers and sisters in arms.”
The Burbank Veterans Committee includes Bill Andrew, Rich Baenen, Barbara Bartman, Gary Bric, Mary Ann Christ, David Christ, Paul Currier, DePalo, Deborah Dodge, Juan Guillen, Christine Hatch, Rick Kranes, Michael McDaniel, Paul McKenna Jr., Steven Moss, Erik Reyes, Karen Sartoris, Christopher Thomas, Pat Walmisley and John Wernstrum.
Fittingly, a single bugler from the Burbank Community Band played “Taps” to end the show.