The Names on the Wall

Photos by Charly SHELTON
A flag folding ceremony was held by members of American Legion 288.


William Warren Hail, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force, from Glendale, Missing in Action, last seen during post-maintenance test flight out of Da Nang Air Force Base on Aug. 2, 1965. Jerry Ray Murphy, Specialist 5th Class, U.S. Army, from Tujunga, Killed in Action May 4, 1966 in Ving Long, Vietnam. Gary Nels Nelson, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, from Glendale, Killed in Action June 4, 1966 in Tam Ky, Quang Nam, Vietnam. Michael Anthony Najarian, Naval Hospital Corpsman, U.S. Marine Corps, from La Crescenta, Killed in Action June 18, 1966 in Da Nang, Vietnam. Fred Benjamin “Beno” Beckermann Jr., Lance Corporal, Field Artillery U.S. Marine Corps, from Tujunga, Killed in Action July 3, 1966 in Quang Tin, Vietnam. James Reginald Bauder, Captain, U.S. Navy, from La Cañada, shot down on Sept. 21, 1966. He was reported MIA until recently. His body was recovered on June 11, 2017. Patrick Owen Quinn, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, from La Crescenta, died by accidental weapons discharge by another Marine while on patrol on Nov. 25, 1966 in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Stephen Frank Burlingame, Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army from Glendale, Killed in Action March 12, 1967 in Kon Tum, Vietnam. Robert Anthony Chapp, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, from Santa Ana, wounded during a firefight with North Vietnamese Army unit on Feb. 25, 1967 in Quang Tri, Vietnam. He was transported to Clark Air Force Base Hospital in the Philippines where he passed away from his injuries. Norman Richard Kidd Jr., Captain, U.S. Army, from Montrose, killed in a mid-air collision with another helicopter, in-country flight training on May 26, 1967 in Long An, Vietnam. Gregory Paul Kelly, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, from La Crescenta, wounded in action May 8, 1967 in Thua Thien, Vietnam and passed away from his injuries on June 10, 1967 on the hospital ship USS Repose. John Patrick Lee, Specialist 4th Class, U.S. Army, from La Crescenta, Killed in Action June 19, 1967 in Gia Dinh, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Callen James Courtemanche, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, from La Crescenta, Killed in Action Jan. 31, 1968 in Quang Tri, Vietnam. Richard Charles Ramsey, Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, from Sun Valley, Killed in Action Feb. 18, 1968 in Gia Dinh, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Michael David Sheahan, Private 1st First Class, U.S. Army, from Tujunga, Killed in Action Feb. 25, 1968 in Dinh, Tuong, Vietnam. Jack Dennis Downs, Private 1st Class, U.S. Army, from Tujunga, Killed in Action April 6, 1968 in Quang Tri, Vietnam. John Charles Sweet, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, from La Cañada, MIA last contact was on May 22, 1968, lost at sea while stationed on the nuclear submarine USS Scorpion. Debris was found 400 miles southwest in the Azores. The ship was assigned to observe Soviet activities near Azores. On May 20-21 the Scorpion sent her last message that she was closing on a Soviet sub; she was never heard from again. Loren Eugene Engstrom, Warrant Officer, U.S. Army, Helicopter Pilot, from La Cañada, Killed in Action Nov. 13, 1968 in Binh Dinh, Vietnam. Roy Allen Fryman, Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps from La Cañada, Killed in Action Aug. 24, 1969 in Quan Ngai, Vietnam. Stephen Arthur Golsh, Specialist Sergeant, 4th Class, U.S. Army, from La Crescenta, Killed in Action March 21, 1970 in Hue, Thua Thien, Vietnam. Ralph Nelson Duemling, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, Pilot from South Pasadena, mother was from La Crescenta, Killed in Action Aug. 18, 1970 in Quang Nam, Da Nang, Vietnam. William Alexander Pedersen, LTJG, U.S. Navy Pilot and FTL from La Cañada, killed after his helicopter crashed on Sept. 15, 1970 in An Xugen, Vietnam. Manuel Miranda, Specialist 5th Class, U.S. Army, from Tujunga, Killed in Action June 14, 1971 in Long Khanh, Vietnam. William Richard Spencer, Major, U.S. Air Force, from La Crescenta, reported MIA on Dec. 20, 1972 in Hai Phong, Vietnam. His remains were returned on Nov. 3, 1976.

These are the names of the local men who lost their lives while serving during the Vietnam conflict. It was called a “conflict” because the U.S. Congress never declared it a “war.” However, the definition of a war is “a state of armed conflict between different nations” so, in the case of Vietnam, despite Congress’ official sanction it is considered by most a war.

Retired Lt. Col. Dave Worley conducted the POW/MIA table ceremony.

These names appear on the memorial at the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Honolulu Avenue. The memorial has been at that corner for 50 years and on Saturday the community came together to honor those whose names are on the wall.

Planning the 50th anniversary of the memorial were members of the community including veterans, the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., Montrose-Verdugo Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley and the Crescenta Valley Weekly. Resident Bronwyn Schramm, who stops nearly every day at the memorial site to pay her respects to the names there, was asked to recite the names at the ceremony, which she did from memory. In gratitude, she was presented an American flag by the event committee and members of American Legion Post 288 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1614.

“It has taken me all this time to begin to wrap my brain around the kindness and generosity of this wonderful flag you have given me,” she wrote in a thank you note. “I’m just bowled over that anyone should think what I said is worthy of this honor. I am profoundly grateful and humbled that you would go to such effort and expense to create this special gift. It was my pleasure and, indeed, honor to speak about the men on the monument. They have become so dear to me.”

That sentiment seemed to be the general consensus of the audience that attended Saturday’s event.

Steve Pierce, an event organizer and master of ceremonies, is a Vietnam veteran. He reminded the audience of the homecoming the Vietnam veterans did not receive when they returned home. There were protests throughout the nation concerning the United States’ involvement in Vietnam and amid the conflict at home were those who served in the military. It was during this turbulent time that the Montrose community decided to create the memorial.

La Crescenta resident Mike Leum was at the ceremony for very personal reasons. His cousin’s name is on the wall – Callen James Courtemanche (“Court”).

“I was 4 or 5 years old [when he died],” Leum said.

He didn’t remember Court as a child but felt he knew him through the stories his family shared that kept his memory alive.

“I grew up hearing about him and seeing pictures,” Leum said.

His younger brother, who passed away when he was young, was named Court after his cousin. Leum’s younger son’s middle name is Court, also named for the slain Marine corporal.

“My boys and I go by the memorial [all the time]. They have grown up hearing stories of [Callen],” he said. “Having the memorial in Montrose helps our family keep our family history and his memory alive.”

Cal’s parents no longer live in the Crescenta Valley but are still in California. It is difficult for them to travel, but Leum said he is sending them the history book created for the ceremony by Mike Lawler, Michael Morgan and other members of the Historical Society of CV.

“It is fantastic that 50 years ago our community had the foresight to memorialize these men,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I love living where I live.”

Another part of the 50-year-ceremony was honoring an American who never took his adopted country for granted, Vito Cannella. Vito was an emigrated from Italy to America when he was 25 years old. He lived briefly on the east coast before moving west to make Montrose his home. He was a former Montrose postmaster and the neighborhood barber at his shop on Ocean View Boulevard, but it was his dedication to the American flag that was honored at Saturday’s event. Vito began writing to Presidents in 1967 asking them to extend Flag Day to Flag Week. The first President to agree to the proclamation was Lyndon B. Johnson. Until Vito’s passing last year he continued to write a letter each year to the sitting President with this request. His daughter Grace Chase has taken up the torch and sent a letter this year to President Donald Trump.

The President agreed to make the proclamation, she said during the event.

Flags lined the grass around the memorial and along Honolulu Avenue to remind people of Flag Week. A plaque commemorating Vito was unveiled at the ceremony.

“Vito would have loved this [ceremony],” Chase said.

The family was presented a flag that flew over the Montrose Vietnam Memorial on Memorial Day in honor of Vito.

At the end of the ceremony, the estimated 150 guests were served cake donated by Porto’s Bakery in Glendale.