Memorial Day Celebration
I rarely speak publicly about my military experience in Viet Nam because I feel lucky to be one of the soldiers who returned home in one piece and in sound mind. I was in my early 20s, naive and fresh out of college, when I volunteered for the army. The politicians call Viet Nam a “conflict,” but to the soldiers on the ground it was “war.” When talking about the war I would say to family and friends I was a “lover” and never a soldier. When I was discharged, there was no military parade for me and my comrades-in-arms as it was just best to blend into society and move on with one’s life. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make the transition. I knew, on the other hand, many soldiers came home with limbs gone, drug addicted and broken hearted.
About two years ago, I visited the Veterans Hospital in the Valley and saw an establishment that made me want to cry. Acres of rundown buildings and landscaping, the complex was old and, because of politics and government neglect, reminded me how lucky I was to have been able to transition to civilian life and live comfortably. At the VA hospital were hundreds of people with serious problems, unlike me, being pushed around in wheelchairs, on crutches and with sadness in their eyes. Why wasn’t this country honoring these heroes with an environment that was new and cheerful, not old and neglected?
Last month I read that the City of Burbank was honoring a local hero by dedicating a city park in his honor. Corporal Larry Leonard Maxam had received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism while serving in Viet Nam. I never knew Corporal Maxam, but I did something I had never done before. I got involved and went to Pacific Park and became one person in a crowd of hundreds honoring an individual I had never met.
As Memorial Day is just around the corner, I am reminded every Tuesday evening how lucky I am to be able to appear before my city council and staff and tell the members how I feel on different issues. The other evening was no different for me and, I am sure, for the thousands of other citizens throughout our country doing the same thing. We know we live in a democracy where we would not be put into jail for not agreeing with our elected officials.
I approached the speakers’ stand and looked right into the eyes of my five elected city council members. As I made eye contact, I reminded our council members how lucky we all are for all the Corporal Maxams who gave their lives so we could be free to disagree.
This Memorial Day I would be honored if the good citizens of Glendale paused for one moment and said a prayer for all the Corporal Maxams who made it possible to be living in a free country, despite all its warts and shortcomings.