A day of emotion, a time to reflect – the community comes together to dedicate the Two Strike War Memorial Wall.
By Mary O’KEEFE
We have all heard stories about the bonds between those who served in the military, this band of brothers, but mostly those stories reflect times spent on the battlefield. On Sunday afternoon in La Crescenta, those bonds were never more evident than at the dedication of the Two Strike Park war memorial and they spanned battlefields across time.
There was a memorial wall already at Two Strike Park, but it was in poor condition. There is also a memorial wall in Montrose, but it is dedicated to those who served in Vietnam. When a Crescenta Valley family asked a veteran where their son’s name could be placed after he was killed in Iraq in 2006 by a roadside bomb, the choice was to first add his name onto the Two Strike Park wall. But that was not possible because of structural issues. So in 2007, members of American Legion Post 288 and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1614 began raising money for a new wall – just as the economy took a downturn.
The veterans struggled and raised some money, but not much. They regrouped and decided to contact members of the community for help. A committee was formed. Over the years, members danced, ran and wrote many, many emails to government officials and businesses in an effort to raise the $75,000 needed for the wall. On Sunday, their efforts were realized with the rededication of the memorial wall.
“If it wasn’t for [Los Angeles] Supervisor Michael Antonovich we would not be here today, “ said Mike Baldwin, VFW and American Legion adjunct and master of ceremonies for the event.
Antonovich supported the veterans, which was the first real break for the wall project. He contacted L.A. County Parks and Recreation, which then began the process of building a new structure. Materials came from a Home Depot grant and support from Matthews Granite and Angelus Block. Forest Lawn made a donation of the bronze plaques. There were also government officials in addition to Antonovich who supported the veterans including Congressman Adam Schiff, State Senator Carol Liu and Assemblymember Mike Gatto. All helped arrange grants, made introductions to businesses and personally donated to the project.
All along there was the community. Kids and adults raised funds to help build the “community memorial wall,” said Warren Spayth, VFW Post 1614 commander.
CVW reported on the progress of the wall as it went from conception to construction and was there for the rededication. The many articles covered the history and fundraising, but on Sunday it was all about the real reason the wall was finally built – a group of veterans who continued to honor their comrades beyond the years – and beyond the grave.
Members of American Legion Post 288 and VFW Post 1614 never gave up. They wanted to honor those who served and died for their country. Throughout the rededication ceremony, these men fought back tears as they spoke about the wall, their fallen comrades and what it meant to them to be able to honor their service. One of the leaders in this effort was missed at the event: Ken Jury was the commander of the American Legion when he passed away in June of this year.
“Ken was very active in his church, his lodge and [L.A.] County fire,” Spayth said. “He worked with Forest Lawn [for the bronze plaques]. He passed away in June, but I know he is watching this event and proud of this memorial.”
When major construction began, these men and their wives brought lawn chairs to Two Strike Park. They sat and watched, not because they didn’t trust those who were working on the wall, but because they needed to be there, as if it were their private guard duty to oversee the construction.
And there at every moment of the wall’s construction was Roy Allmon. He was there with his camera and always had a few things to say to the construction workers.
“I guess you could call him the father of this memorial,” Spayth said. “When the county said we could not alter the older wall, he was the one that put things together.”
Spayth presented Allmon with a painting of the finished memorial wall.
In a day full of emotion, singular moments stood out. Perhaps foremost was a flyover of Two Strike Park by the Condor Squadron.
Around 12:20 p.m., Lt. Col. Dave Worley, Crescenta Valley High School JROTC mentor and member of the Two Strike Park War Memorial committee, asked Sunday’s audience to step out from under the tent cover.
“The reason will become clear in a few minutes,” he explained.
Worley had arranged the flyover for the event. The audience cheered as the planes flew over three times. With the last pass in the missing man formation, the “oohs” and “ahhs” were silenced and replaced with tears.
When Baldwin invited the Steinbacher family to the podium, the project was truly finished. This was the mom and dad who started it all with a simple question: Where will my son’s name be placed?
Army Specialist Nick Steinbacher was a CV High School graduate. On Dec. 10, 2006 he was killed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Steinbachers, who have since moved out of Crescenta Valley, followed the progress of the wall.
“This has always been a patriotic community,” said Carolyn Steinbacher, Nick’s mom. “That is why Nick did what he did, why Nick chose the service … This memorial coming to completion means that the community is everything we think a [community] should be.”