Larry Burbank, an 82-year-old Manchester resident and Vietnam War veteran, served in the U.S. Army for 43 years.
Since retiring from the service in 1996, he’s focused on advocating for veterans services. He was a leader in active duty and now he’s a leader in fighting for the rights of those returning from it.
After two years as the chairman of Carroll County Veterans Advisory Council — whose mission is “to evaluate, develop and promote new and existing programs and services for Veterans and their families within Carroll County” — Burbank has been selected to maintain his post for another year. He’s also a member of VFW Post 467 in Westminster.
Burbank has helped to spearhead a Veteran’s Independence Project, which will repurpose the Carroll County Memorial U.S. Army Reserve Center on Malcolm Drive in Westminster into a facility that will host “a transition program to provide training and education to help Veterans find a home in Carroll County, following their service to our Nation,” he said.
Moving that project forward is at the top of his agenda looking toward his next year as chairman of the council.
He’s been a steward in helping veterans across the county, state and beyond and his efforts were recognized when he was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Oct. 25 in Glen Burnie.
The Hall of Fame’s selection committee each year fields nominations for the honor, which recognizes “Maryland senior citizens 65 years of age or older who have made outstanding volunteer contributions affecting the lives of people in the State of Maryland.” Up to 50 nominees can be recognized each year.
The Times caught up with Burbank about a week after he was inducted.
Q: Why do you think you received this honor?
A: As a military retiree that’s been in the service forever and who continue to serve. It’s just in our blood. I’ve been instructing the Senior Safe Driving program for AARP for 17 years. And that’s been a good program. I’ve touched a few thousand folks in that program. And I volunteer for the Manchester fire company here in Manchester as a volunteer to help raise funds and so forth. I don’t know what else I do. I always had my ears aground with something [to] help out veterans. We’re putting together a veterans shuttle program so to speak and I’ve got a young man that’s working with me. We have a meeting that’s next Thursday at the senior center on that issue. Our Carroll County folks.
Also we provide information on how a veteran can get a identification card. And that’s sometimes a big issue. They need an ID card to get into the VA system. We also help with that. We established a free transportation service to local VA facilities. We take our veterans to Baltimore, Fort Detrick, Loch Raven and Martinsburg, West Virginia. And that’s out of our folks at the senior center. We coordinated veterans issues with county and state agencies as part of our veterans council.
Q: Why is the work that you do for veterans in Carroll County so important?
A: The most important issue is to help these folks coming off active duty that are unaware of the services and the compensation that they’re due. It’s an education factor. So we’re trying to educate our young folks as they come off active duty and get into the civilian sector.
Q: Being a veteran yourself, what do you remember as some of the biggest challenges of going from active duty to civilian life?
A: Well I was fortunate. I enlisted in 1953 in the State of Kansas and I spent over 40 years in uniform. So I was well informed. And when I retired they had a two-day seminar for us at the Pentagon. We were well informed. I didn’t have any issues at all. I was able to help the folks coming out because what I learned when I got out I just transferred over to the current folks.
Q: Do you you miss flying?
A: Oh yes. I flew helicopters and fixed wings for 35 years and it’s in your blood.
The combat is OK. But the most rewarding missions that I had over the years was to help our fellow man like in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and blizzards. It’s really neat to use your expertise and that big machine to reach down and help those folks and get them out of their environment to a safe position. That’s the neat part.
I spent a week in Western Kansas had a big blizzard, and three counties bordering Colorado were shut down for a week. And I spent a week out there with my crew and it’s rewarding when you come home and you think you’ve done good. It’s expensive the training you receive, but it’s very rewarding. And aviation is only 5 percent of the force, so it’s kind of a selective group.
Q: What are some of the things that are not well known about being a military veteran that people should be aware of?
A: When they’re on active duty and they’re in a unit, that unit becomes a family. When they are relieved from active duty and lose that family contact, then they’re kind of lost. They have that lost feeling when they get back into the community. And we need to bring those folks together and make them at home, make a community environment. That’s a big issue: Make the young folks feel welcome when they come back and provide them a home and a family. And I think we can do that.
Q: What aspects of your military career do you think help you now in the work that you do in Carroll County helping veterans?
A: There’s a certain bond between veterans and unless you’ve been there and done that, you won’t understand. But you would have the bond and then when we get out of the service, we’d still feel that we’d need to serve our fellow man as well as our veterans. Service is just in our blood after so many years.
Q: You’re in a leadership position with the veterans council, and I’d imagine as an aviator you take on a leadership role as well. Are there any similarities?
A: Yes. The military is a great organization and you have to be organized to make your unit function. So that’s part of it the training we received. You are taught organization and how to make a unit work. You’ve got to depend on your people. And another issue is your people can tell if you care for them or not. So it’s a win-win situation when you’ve got people that care for you and you care for them. Oftentimes you don’t have to tell or order somebody to do something, they know what needs to be done and they carry out their mission without any adverse mission orders. It’s really great. It’s a camaraderie that’s hard to understand, but it’s really there.
Q: You mentioned the project at the armory, what else do you look forward to accomplishing in the next year as you’ve been reelected as the chairman?
A: Well I’d like to think that we keep the program running. We’re going to coordinate with Fort Meade Maryland as people come off active duty at that post. … We’ll just continue to build what we have in the past. And I appreciate the Carroll County commissioners supporting us. It’s very great when you have a commissioner sitting next to you and he’s willing to back you.
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Burbank encourages any veterans in need to call Carroll County Veterans Services at 410-386-3800.