BURBANK — Hundreds of residents gathered Monday to honor Burbank servicemen and women who have fought and continue to defend the United States on the battlefields.
During the annual Memorial Day tradition, members of the Burbank Veteran Commemorative Committee read the names of 215 local service members who were killed in either World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War or the global war on terrorism.
“Every Memorial Day, we read their names, but do we know anything about them?” committee member Mike McDaniel told residents at the McCambridge Park War Memorial.
Determined to learn more about Burbank’s hometown heroes, the committee members embarked on a mission to “find out more about the names,” he said.
Committee members eventually gathered enough historical background to create a book, which they showcased at the ceremony.
“Having read these names hundreds of times as I researched the book, I have come to know them, I feel them, and I think we all here need to be the same way,” McDaniel told residents.
They discovered that the fallen troops accumulated more than 236 Purple Hearts; 128 Air Medals; 15 Distinguished Flying Crosses; 10 Distinguished Service Crosses; four Prisoner of War Medals; three Navy Crosses and one Medal of Honor, he said.
“I am so proud to live in a community that faithfully recognizes all veterans whether it is in times of peace or war,” said Chris Welker, member of the city’s Military Service Recognition Program.
The program pays tribute to service members currently engaged in battle by displaying a banner with their name along Third Street from Olive Street to McCambridge Park.
“Some are dusty and some are a little faded, which is evidence of the length of time that these men and women have served,” she said. “Some who were recognized have actually never seen their banner posted in person.”
During the ceremony, Air Force Master Sgt. David Bigbee, Marine Cpl. Lindsey Davenport, Navy Fireman Steven Moss and Navy Chief Petty Officer Timothy Williams, who recently returned home from battle, received their banners and a photograph of the banner flying on Third Street.
And while the banners were removed and presented to the service members, Welker said new banners are erected monthly.
Voice actor and Burbank resident Jimmy Weldon performed a crowd-pleasing presentation of Old Glory at the ceremony, while Pat Walmisley’s rendition of “God Bless America” drew cheers and audience participation.
While resident Audrey Anderson, 78, never lost any family members to war, she said she has several friends who fought in the Vietnam War.
“They couldn’t come back and adjust,” she said. “They tried really hard and did very well, but it was hard for them to come back.”
The Family Service Agency of Burbank started a support group, which is held every Wednesday, to help all military service members and their families cope with their experiences, group facilitator Rena Scharch said.