Several venues hosted Memorial Day observances, giving locals the chance to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
By Michael ARVIZU, Mary O’KEEFE and Michael YEGHIAYAN
It was an emotional Memorial Day observance on Monday at Two Strike Park. Emotion is not unusual on a day filled with patriotism, heroism and loss, and the Two Strike ceremony connected deeply with the meaning of the day.
One of those in the audience, wearing red, white and blue and honoring those who had fallen, was Susan Bedal. She said the day causes her to think back over the loss of lives and the toll it takes on those left behind.
“It is amazing how one event changed my entire life,” said Bedal.
Fifty years ago, she was pregnant with her second child. Her husband, First Lt. Arthur “Skip” Bedal, was serving in Vietnam.
“He was a B-26 navigator and was with the First Air Commando Group,” Bedal said.
She remembers the day she received word that her husband had been shot down over Vietnam.
“For 42 years, I thought he was shot down,” she said. “That’s what I was told.”
Then Bedal began searching the Internet and found that the plane her husband was in had not been shot down; the wing had fallen off.
“They had problems with the B26,” Bedal said.
Since finding out the truth about her husband’s death, she has met with other widows whose husbands were on that mission, including the pilot’s wife. It wasn’t so much how he died but that Bedal was never told the truth that bothered her. The pain of that loss still haunts her, even after her children are grown and 50 years has passed.
She is not alone in her loss.
“I met with a woman whose husband had been a prisoner of war for five years,” she said. “She said she almost envied me, at least knowing my husband’s fate was better than her five years of worrying and not knowing about her husband’s [fate]. I said, “But at least he came home.’”
Mike Baldwin, member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke to the audience at Two Strike and explained the new staging of the traditional event. The change was a welcomed one because it meant the Two Strike Park Memorial Wall was under construction. In the past, the old wall was center stage. This year, however, the ceremony was held off to the side. Baldwin invited fellow veteran Lynn McGinnis to the podium to explain the process behind the new memorial wall.
“In 2007, we wanted to add Nick Steinbacher’s name to the wall,” McGinnis said. Steinbacher, a Crescenta Valley High School graduate, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Calvary Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. On Dec. 10, 2006, two days before his 22nd birthday, a bomb exploded near the vehicle he was in.
The veterans wanted to add Steinbacher’s name to the memorial wall at the park but found that was not possible due to the aged structure. The American Legion and VFW members began fundraising to build a new wall.
“Then the economy hit bottom,” McGinnis said.
The vets continued to fundraise. Four years ago they had collected $8,000.
“Then in 2011, we formed a community-wide committee,” he said.
That committee, with the help of sponsors like Home Depot and Forest Lawn along with officials including Congressman Adam Schiff, Assemblymember Mike Gatto and L.A. Supervisor Michael Antonovich, has been able to raise the $75,000 needed to build the wall.
It was the community coming together that Gatto spoke about from the podium as well.
“This community is special in the way it [came] together,” Gatto said. “This community knows how to honor those that [have given their lives] and know how to do it right.”
Lt. Col. Worley, mentor of Crescenta Valley High School’s JROTC, was the keynote speaker. His speech focused on the United States flag, what it stands for and why it is worth fighting and dying for.
“Our American flag represents life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Worley said. “We are specifically honoring the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Americans that were held prisoners of war and those still listed as missing in action since the time of the American Revolution.”
Worley spoke about the history of the flag on battlefields. He referred to the famous photo taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal of U.S. Marines raising the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Japan on Feb. 23, 1945.
“The raising of that flag was more than a symbol of victory; [it was] a tribute to their fallen commands,” Worley said.
Scholl Canyon Estates in Glendale
A number of veterans were honored for their service at Scholl Canyon Estates as part of the Memorial Day remembrance across Glendale. The retirement community also unveiled a memorial wall dedicated to residents who have previously served their country.
Certificates in recognition of their service were awarded by the California State Assembly with the recipients nominated by local Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s office. The 15 veterans honored served during World War II, the Korean War, and during peacetime.
Because such a large number of the Scholl Canyon Estates residents previously served in the military, the management showed a desire to honor its veterans. A dedicated monument to its veteran population seemed an appropriate tribute to director of Marketing Roseann Kim.
“We realized that a significant number of residents have served in the military, so we reached out to a number of local veterans’ offices who were happy to be a part of this cause,” said Kim. “It is difficult for many of them to leave their home and celebrate Memorial Day, so we decided this was the best way to properly express our thanks.”
The La Crescenta branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars presented each recipient with their certificate. Additionally, the Glendale Police Color Guard presented flags during the ceremony.
Former California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino thanked all of the veterans for their service and commended the La Crescenta VFW for their efforts toward building a war memorial at Two Strike Park. He also expressed his appreciation for the sacrifice of American servicemen and women through the words of Aaron Kilbourn.
“A dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem,” remarked Portantino. “We must thank the soldiers who have come home and regret the ones who never will.”
Kim also expressed appreciation for the importance of these seniors to Scholl Canyon Estates in particular and commented on their contribution in the residential community.
“Their experiences and some of the things they can share with us are a reminder of what we might forget,” said Kim. “Photos of them young and in uniform reminds us of the sacrifice of those who fought for us and our privilege of reaping that sacrifice.”
A plaque for each of the veterans was arranged on a wall in the dining room. Each plaque displayed a current portrait, an active duty portrait and the seal of the respective branch of the military.
Vietnam Memorial in Montrose
At the annual Montrose Memorial Day service on Monday, which each year takes place on the site of the Vietnam War Memorial on the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Honolulu Avenue, Rep. Adam Schiff stepped up to the microphone to tell the story of William B. McIlvaine III, a Burbank resident and 2006 graduate of Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.
McIlvaine’s dream, Schiff said, was to attend the Naval Academy. When the time came, Schiff was pleased to recommend the star high school pupil to the academy. McIlvaine would go on to graduate with honors from the Naval Academy in 2010.
But McIlvaine’s dream came to a tragic end when he and two other sailors were killed while conducting training operations in eastern Washington on March 11.
After attending McIlvaine’s memorial service, Schiff talked to his 10-year-old son, Elijah, about McIlvaine, when his son asked: “Why would someone join the military to get killed?”
“It’s a fair question,” Schiff said, choking back tears. “We are lucky there are people who are so dedicated, courageous, have such a love of country, that they’re willing to risk it all. It’s a beautiful thing.”
About 100 people attended Monday’s solemn service, which included political dignitaries, veterans, Boy Scouts, and members of the Glendale Police Dept., California Highway Patrol, and Glendale Fire Dept. A color guard detail from the Crescenta Valley High School ROTC raised the colors. People having their morning coffee across the street at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf also watched the ceremony from afar.
Dedicated in 1968, the Montrose Vietnam War Memorial lists the names of 14 local servicemen killed while serving in Vietnam. Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce director Steve Pierce was tasked with reading each name. Pierce himself is a Vietnam War veteran, having served as a lieutenant in the Navy. After each name was read, Sparr Heights resident Mike Morgan rang a bell taken from a Glendale-Montrose trolley.
“These were my contemporaries, and I’m in awe of every each and every one of them,” said Glendale Police Officer Larry Ballesteros of the Vietnam fallen. At the time of the memorial’s dedication, Ballesteros had 18 about months left before he had to register for the draft. “They did their duty and paid the ultimate price.”
La Crescenta’s Arne Wickstrom also attended Monday’s service. Wickstrom served in the Swedish army during World War II from 1939 to 1942 as a tank mechanic. He immigrated to the United States in 1969.
“The guys gave their life for us, for the country,” Wickstrom through tears. “They didn’t have to, but they did.”
Although Wickstrom did not lose friends due to Sweden’s neutrality during the war, the Swedish army helped many American pilots land in Sweden.
The best way to remember the fallen, he said, is “to be honest and stay on the right side of the law. Don’t speed too much,” Wickstrom added with a laugh.
“Support your country, and [stand] up for your country,” said Wickstrom. “That’s the right thing to do.”