The Burbank Veterans Committee and the City of Burbank held a special program honoring all Veterans on Monday, November 11, Veterans Day. Special guest speaker was Lt. Colonel Robert J. Friend of the U.S. Air Force (Ret.), a Tuskegee Airman during World War II. Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy made a military presentation honoring Major Michelle Koch Hawk of the U.S. Air Force. A number of notable guests attended including Congressman Adam Schiff, State Assemblyman Mike Gatto and members of the Burbank City Council and the Burbank Veterans Committee.
Lt. Colonel Friend has had a storied life; born in South Carolina in 1920, he earned a private pilot certificate from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1939. His hard work and dedication took him to the Tuskegee Institute in 1942 where he received his wings as an Air Force Pilot. A skillful pilot of P47 and P51 single engine planes, Lt. Friend flew as wing man for the Commander of his group, in the European theater of World War II.
After his service during the war, Lt. Colonel Friend continued a technical career with the Air Force including work on the Space program and at one point was Director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, investigating cased of UFOs brought to the Air Force’s attention. After retiring from the Air Force, Lt. Colonel Friend worked for Fairchild Stratos Companies, overseeing the design and production of space products for the space shuttle. Currently in his third career, at 93 years young, he is Vice President for the Stanford Mu Corporation, a company producing space components for the International Space Station and other satellite systems.
Burbank’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony was held at the McCambridge Park War Memorial. Mickey DePalo, Chairman of the Burbank Veterans Committee, welcomed attendees and the Condor Squadron performed a flyover to begin the remembrance service. The Burbank Community Band performed throughout the event and several members of the Burbank Veterans Committee took part. Remarks were made by Mayor Gabel-Luddy, Congressmen Schiff and Assemblyman Gatto. Kindergarteners from St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Elementary School sang “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Chief Photographer Ross A. Benson Contributed to this story.