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They turn out to remember the sacrifices

McCambridge Park was the scene Monday where hundreds celebrated a solemn observation of the Memorial Day holiday.

May 30, 2007

Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos was stunned on Monday after hearing terrible news.

"We have another Gold Star mother in our midst," she said upon hearing about the death of U.S. Army Spec. Coty Phelps, 20, whose mother, Jan Kempton, lives in Burbank.

Phelps, of Arizona, died on May 17 when a makeshift bomb detonated near his vehicle in Iskandariyah, a town in central Iraq.

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For Ramos, and others in the crowd of more than 300 people who came to the Memorial Day ceremony at McCambridge Park on Monday, the loss brought home the reality of the sacrifice they all came to honor.

Phelps joined a list of 299 fallen soldiers from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War who were remembered in front of the McCambridge Park War Memorial.

After a flyover of a Condor Squadron of vintage World War II airplanes, members of the city's Veterans Commemorative Committee read off each of the names of soldiers from the area who died in the nation's wars -- 206 from World War II, 33 in Korea and 60 during Vietnam.

As the names were read, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, one by one, laid roses on the memorial for each soldier.

"They were young. They were so incredibly young," Rep. Adam Schiff said as he reflected on the dead. "They were at the beginning of their lives when they lost their lives."

It made cherishing the young all the more important, he said.

It was a sacrifice not at all lost on Burbank resident Jim Casey, who was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Casey had never come to the ceremony in past years, even though he knew some of the soldiers whose names are engraved on the memorials at the park.

But Monday was different.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do," he said.

Casey joined an audience that spanned from very young to old, which included veterans and their families, current soldiers and dignitaries, Gold Star Mothers — mothers who have lost children in service to the country — passersby and residents. They witnessed a ceremony that included patriotic songs, such as "God Bless America," performed by Pat Walmisley, remarks from Schiff, state Sen. Jack Scott and Assemblyman Paul Krekorian.

St. Robert Bellarmine School kindergartners donning glittering red-white-and-blue Uncle Sam-style hats had grown men in tears, and an audience standing in applause after the children sang a version of "God Bless the USA" — every bit as powerful as the most professional singer.

The smiles and buzz of the children's performance turned to solemn reverence and quiet reflection as "Taps" echoed through the park, giving way to Anjanette McFarlin's bagpipe performance of "Amazing Grace."

Pastor Jerry Jones prayed for some of that grace as the ceremony closed.

"I pray that as we leave here today, our hearts will be tendered and silenced…. " He prayed for the realization that the names read Monday would be something "more than names in granite or on a plaque."

"They represent the life blood … of people who died for us and our freedom," he said.


  • RYAN CARTER is City Editor. He may be reached at (818) 637-3220 or by e-mail at ryan.carterlatimes.com.

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