Remembering heroes

Looking over names for the Memorial Day Ceremony of the Rose at McCambirdge Park War Memorial in Burbank are, from left, Mickey De Palo, Doris Vick and Greg Alaimo, on Friday. Memorial Day festivities will include a flyover by the Condor Squadron. (Raul Roa)

Vietnam War veteran Mickey DePalo continues to serve his country — and his city — as chairman of the Burbank Veterans Commemorative Committee.

DePalo works with about 14 other members to organize programs for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other programs that salute Burbank residents who have served and are still serving their country.

"I think the committee's purpose is that we want to honor all veterans and honor and remember all the soldiers and Marines who have died in service to our country," he said.

Also important to the committee, he added, is the support of the loved ones left behind.

"We want them to know that we do care, and we are indebted to them for the service their loved ones have made for us," he said.

Monday's Memorial Day service at the McCambridge Park War Memorial will start out with a fly-over by the civilian Condor squadron and the Burbank Community Band playing patriotic music. The Ceremony of the Rose follows.

"We have committee members read the names of all the soldiers and Marines that appear on the memorial plaques, and Boy Scouts lay a red rose at the memorial for each name," he said, describing the ceremony. "That's the highlight of the day."

The committee members will also read the names of the two Burbank members of the armed forces who died during the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I work with a great group on the committee and city staff who are really passionate in making sure our ceremonies are as dignified and sensitive as possible to the veterans and their families," DePalo said.

The committee also worked to bring The Moving Wall, a half-scale replica of the Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, for a week to the McCambridge Park War Memorial in 1998. It displays more than 58,000 names of soldiers who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

"We had 20,000 people who came to see it during that week," DePalo said.

People made etchings of the names of loved ones by scratching a pencil over a special paper applied on top of the name.

"This was an opportunity for families who couldn't get to Washington, D.C., to see it," he said.

The commemorative committee also organizes a military banner program, an idea introduced by member Chris Welker. Families can have their children's names placed on a banner that is hung on sign and light posts around City Hall.

"When that soldier or Marine comes home, we present the banner to the service personnel who have completed their active duty," DePalo said.

DePalo's commitment to the commemorative committee was touted by Gaby Flores, deputy director of recreation services for the Burbank Parks Recreation and Community Services.

"Mickey's passion for the Burbank community and veterans everywhere is really exemplified through his leadership in the Veterans Commemorative Committee and through his continued dedication of veterans," she said. "Mickey has helped cement a communitywide awareness of the plight and sacrifices of our fallen and living heroes."

Retired from 41-plus years with the recreation department, DePalo took a military leave of absence from the city from 1969 to 1971 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Following basic training he was assigned to military police school and then stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he worked as a military police guard for the U.S. disciplinary barracks.

After four months there, he was sent to Vietnam where he was a military police sergeant at the U.S. Army Installation Stockade at Long Binh in Vietnam.

Following his service, DePalo returned home to Burbank and continued working for the city of Burbank in the parks and recreation department. He retired in 2008 as a recreation supervisor overseeing the Verdugo Recreation Center.

In 1988, he was asked by Rich Inga, then-director of the parks department, to be the city liaison to create a Vietnam War memorial plaque at the McCambridge Park War Memorial.

He worked on that effort with World War II veteran Bob Lundigan and Frank and Roberta Bullock, whose son Brian died during the Vietnam War. They also created a plaque of names for Burbank residents who died in the Korean War.

"We came up with the plaques, and the memorials were built, and on Veterans Day Nov. 11, 1988, we dedicated those memorials," DePalo said.