Memorial Day Observed

At the Memorial Park observance, looking proud as they hold up the 1941 American flag that flew over Pearl Harbor are, from left, Sophia Bergman, 7, Lilian Burnett, 8, Brianna Bergman, 5, and Lani Kingston, 6.


In 1865, Senator Charles Sumner referred to President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as a “monumental act.” He said that Lincoln was mistaken when he stated “the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.”

Instead, Sumner said, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”

Lt. Col. David Worley was the keynote speaker at the Memorial Day service at Two Strike Park on Monday morning. He opened his speech with a quote from the Gettysburg Address.

“‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,’” Worley quoted. “Those words were spoken in 1863 by our 16th President of the United States on the grounds of one of the bloodiest yet decisive battles of the Civil War.”

Lincoln gave his speech at the official dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, now called the Gettysburg National Cemetery, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was to honor those soldiers who had given their lives during the Battle of Gettysburg. This was about five years before the first observed Decoration Day, which later was renamed Memorial Day.

The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, during the Civil War, is estimated at 620,000 – about equal to the total number of American fatalities of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War combined, according to the National Park Service.

The Civil War tore the country apart and left citizens in a state of grief from which it was difficult to move on. It is no wonder why there was a need for the country to honor those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

A Memorial Day observance was held at Two Strike Park on Monday morning  presented by American Legion Post 288 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1614. All the names listed on the park’s memorial wall were read at the event; then, as is the veterans’ practice, they chose three of those names to spotlight.

Stephen Burlingame, Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, was from Glendale. He died March 12, 1967 at Kon Tum, Vietnam. Burlingame was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star. He grew up in Verdugo Woodlands on Capistrano Street, graduated from Glendale High School in 1960 and went on to Glendale Community College, UCLA and University of California, Berkeley. He was drafted into the Army in 1965. Just two months from coming home, leading a machine gun team on patrol, they walked into an ambush. Burlingame got his machine gun team placed and firing, then moved to the flank to give covering fire. After several minutes of intense exchange of fire, it became obvious that the enemy was too well-placed to dislodge. Burlingame stood up and charged the enemy’s machine gun, firing accurately as he ran. He reached the enemy but was shot as he stood over them. His team saw his gallant charge and they charged behind him, overrunning the enemy position.

Callen Courtemanche, Corporal U.S. Marine Corps, was from La Crescenta. Courtemanche grew up in La Crescenta on the 3400 block of Maryann Street. He attended Lincoln Elementary, Clark Jr. High and CV High School, where he participated in track and field and football. He was an active member of the La Crescenta Baptist Church. After graduating from high school in 1965 he spent a year at Glendale Community College then joined the U.S. Marines in 1966. Courtemanche had done more than his share in Vietnam by January 1968. He was on his second tour of duty having been in Vietnam for 18 months. He’d been wounded twice. Courtemanche had been promoted to corporal just two weeks before the Tet Offensive started on Jan. 30. He had just turned 21. As the North Vietnamese poured south, the 3rd Marines were placed in front of overwhelming numbers of the enemy. Courtemanche’s company was at the very front, “the point of the spear.” In heavy fighting 42 Americans were killed; nine of them from Courtemanche’s company. But the Marines held their section of the line and the next day pushed the enemy back. Courtemanche died on Jan. 31, 1968 at Quang Tri, Vietnam.

Loren Engstrom, Warrant Officer, U.S. Army, was a helicopter pilot from La Cañada. Engstrom grew up on Lombardy Drive in La Cañada. He went by the nickname “Inky.” He went to La Cañada Elementary, La Cañada Junior High and Muir High School in Pasadena. After graduation he attended Pasadena City College, majoring in math and chemistry. He then transferred to Cal State San Diego. During his first year there he became fascinated with flying and took flying lessons at Burbank Airport. When he got his pilot’s license he decided to take time off from school to serve his country. He joined the Army in 1967 and trained as a helicopter pilot. Engstrom was sent to Vietnam in March 1968, assigned as a “Huey” pilot in Central Highlands near the Cambodian border. While providing covering fire for a medical evacuation operation, Engstrom was making a run to fire rockets. His helicopter was attacking at 250 feet and 95 knots, when a large caliber bullet fired from the ground sheared off the shaft powering the tail rotor. The helicopter crashed, killing Engstrom and his crew chief. He died on Nov. 13, 1968 at Binh Dinh, Vietnam.

An observance to remember and honor was also held on Monday morning at the Vietnam War Memorial in Montrose. Bagpiper Bobby Kilgore started the 7:30 a.m. ceremony by playing the bagpipes as he crossed Honolulu Avenue at Ocean View Boulevard. Veterans Chuck Hughes, Jack Wunderlich and Jim Turner oversaw the American flag being raised, lowered, raised, then lowered to half-staff. Allan Brandstater, 2nd Lt. U.S. Army, led the pledge of allegiance followed by Bronwyn Schramm singing “God Bless America.”

Representatives from the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. were on hand including Andre Ordubegian, president of the MSPA, and Dale Dawson, MSPA event coordinator, and Adam Franko, president of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce and Mavil Aghadjanian, executive director of the MVCC.

Dignitaries included Congresswoman Judy Chu, State Senator Anthony Portantino, State Assemblymember Laura Friedman and Glendale City Councilmembers Paula Devine and Ardy Kasakhian.

Law enforcement was also represented by members of the Glendale Police Dept., the CHP and the CV Sheriff’s Station.

The morning included reflections by the dignitaries who spoke.

“We remember and respect those who went off to war and didn’t come home,” said Portantino.

Devine took a moment to share the reason why she always carries dog tags with her on Memorial Day. They belonged to her uncle Paul – for whom she was named.

Aghadjanian recited the names of each person on the site’s memorial wall. Civic activist Michael Morgan rang a bell after each name read in respect and in memory of each person.

CVHS student Chris Seropian then played “Taps” to end the ceremony.

In La Cañada, despite the never-ending drizzle, the Memorial Day service went off without a hitch. The park’s gazebo, decked out in red, white and blue balloons, was the setting for patriotic speeches, recitations and songs. The ceremony opened with local children holding the American flag that flew over Pearl Harbor in 1941. Girl Scout Ashley Dietrich was emcee extraordinaire as she introduced the Boy Scout color guard, the La Cañada High School marching band, LCHS singers, and community students who gave patriotic talks.    

Participating in Memorial Park’s Memorial Day Service are Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), from left, La Crescenta resident Marianne Ward, Caroline Craven and Courtney La Marr-Stewart, both from La Cañada.

The highlight of the hour-long program was the 20 veterans who introduced themselves to much applause from an audience of close to 150 supporters eager to honor the vets. The service ended with a brief address from La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Keith Eich who honored “all the men and women who have served and are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Earlier in the weekend, on Saturday, the Burbank Historical Society honored veteran Samuel X. Garcia who passed away at 103 on May 1 – just 26 days before he was to be honored. The mood was subdued as some 70 guests gathered to remember the oldest World War II veteran in Burbank. 

Vietnam vet Mickey DePalo, left, and Burbank Historical Society President Don Baldaseroni headed their Memorial Day commemoration.

Vietnam veteran and Burbank Historical Society board member Mickey DePalo opened the commemoration on Saturday that was held at the Gordon R. Howard Museum in Burbank. He described Garcia’s service in World War II as “heroic.” 

Born in 1921, the Bronze Star vet was inducted into the Navy in 1941 and sent to the South Pacific as a machinist. He saw action in the Battle of Midway. 

The highlight of the program was the presentation of a state commendation to Garcia’s son, Ted Garcia, by California State Senator Anthony Portantino. The brief ceremony was presided over by Don Baldaseroni, Burbank Historical Society president.

Also on Saturday, members of local Boy Scout Troop 319 headed to the Los Angeles National Cemetery to help place over 80,000 American flags on the gravesites of veterans. Accompanying them were parent helpers TL Cheryl Leu Sinclair, ATL Debey Dick, ASM Nicolas James, ASM Rob Vogt, Joy and Tim Stone, Creighton Papier and Natalie Ouwersloot. The Scouts joined hundreds of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from the Western Los Angeles County Council in the annual Memorial Day observance.

Written by and photos by Robin GOLDSWORTHY, Nicolas JAMES, Mary O’KEEFE and Ruth SOWBY

Additional photos by Donna LIBRA