Memorial Day 2009 - Burbank, California
Dedication of Larry L. Maxam Memorial Park
On Monday May 25, 2009, we attended a Memorial Day Ceremony at McCambridge Park, in Burbank, California. The City of Burbank and its Veterans Commemorative Committee jointly sponsored the event, which attracted over five hundred people. This year, the theme of the event was, “A time of song, word, remembrance and celebration”.
After a stirring prelude by the Burbank Community Band, the Condor Squadron, based in Van Nuys, California, conducted a flyover, with a squadron of their fully restored North American AT-6/SNJ World War II vintage aircraft. A frequent sight over such events in Southern California, the Condor Squadron’s flyover saluted the men and women of our armed forces, and honored the sacrifices they have made. With their powerful radial engines thrumming a heartfelt beat, the flyover added excitement and drama to the day’s events.
Ms. Pat Walmisley then led the crowd in a rendition of “God Bless America” that would have made Kate Smith proud. Next was the Presentation of Colors, by the Second Battalion 23rd Marines, a reserve infantry battalion under the command of the 23rd Marine Regiment and the 4th Marine Division. After the National Anthem, Flag Salute and Invocation, the ceremony paid tribute to every Burbank-related service person that lost their life during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. While the crowd listened to the reading of names of those lost in war, we watched the Ceremony of the Rose.
During the ceremony, a group of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts placed a single rose for each of the deceased on a monument in that special corner of the park.
Following the remarks of the city’s mayor, state and congressional legislators, Mr. Mickey DePalo, the head of the Burbank Veterans Commemorative Committee stepped forward to re-name Pacific Park in honor and memory of United States Marine Corporal Larry L. Maxam, a posthumous recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Corporal Maxam died February 2, 1968, at Cam Lo District, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam.
It pleased us when Mr. DePalo read some of the words that we and other classmates had composed in memory of our classmate and friend, Larry Maxam. However, the moment of greatest drama came when Staff Sergeant Rosal, of the Second Battalion 23rd Marines stepped forward to read Corporal Maxam’s Medal of Honor citation, attributed to then President Richard M. Nixon.
As we listened in rapt attention, Larry Maxam’s spiritual brother-in-arms read the full text of the citation. Sergeant Rosal’s voice did not falter as he described how Corporal Maxam singlehandedly protected his unit from enemy fire. Attendees who did not already know the full story, learned that Corporal Maxam succumbed to his wounds on the battlefield. As he departed the podium, Sergeant Rosal’s military bearing was in keeping with the respect and honor he bestowed upon his fellow Marine. Only his eyes betrayed his emotions.
In fitting honor of his service to the United States of America, the City of Burbank then rededicated old Pacific Park as the new Larry L. Maxam Memorial Park. In Larry's honor, the City of Burbank included $25,000 in its 2009-2010 capital budget for installation of appropriate memorial signage and landscaping.
We hope that Larry Maxam, the man and the soldier will live on in the memories of all who cherish freedom and love these United States. If good planning and good fortune prevail, we hope to attend festivities associated with the park’s official opening on Veteran’s Day, 2009.
After recent publicity about the Larry Maxam story, two more of Larry's classmates at Burbank High School have stepped forward via Linda Mazur's BHS 66 Late Spring '09 Update. Here are their thoughts about Larry Maxam.
Classmate Deanne Adams said, "I knew Larry Maxam very well. In fact, he took it upon himself to be sure I was safe. He went to the same church as I did and whenever we had a dance, he was close by to be sure the young men treated me kindly. He was always kind to me and made me feel very special. I felt badly that I was not more attentive to him, as a friend. He was just a good person. When I read about his heroic deeds during the Vietnam War, I was so proud of him. He had a big heart and cared deeply about other people."
Classmate Eddie Morton added an air of mystery to the events surrounding Larry’s death, when he said, "I knew Larry had been killed in action because I had read about it in the Burbank Review back in '68. It happened around Tet of '68. About ten years ago, I was in Washington, D.C. and read in something at the Library of Congress that he (Larry Maxam) died at "Monkey Mountain", a little west of Da Nang. I spent time in both places. I'm glad he's getting the recognition he deserves."
Recently, we asked a former classmate Linda Mazur, “Is it a cliché to say that they just don't make heroes like Larry Maxam anymore? Rather than encouraging our children to adulate the next comic book sensation, would we not be better served by honoring real people, both living and dead, who served our country and sacrificed on our behalf?”
- Updated Comment - July 1, 2009 - By Eddie Morton, BHS Class of '66
I recently returned to the Viet Nam Memorial and rechecked the info on Larry Maxam. It said that he died at Cam Lo, which is west of Dong Ha and near the DMZ. I went back to the Library of Congress to try and locate whatever it was I read back in ’99, but could not find it. Whatever it was I read back then, it was wrong or I am remembering it wrong.
Email James McGillis