Remembering our Veterans on Memorial Day May 25 2015
I rarely speak publicly about my military experience in Viet Nam, because I feel lucky to be one of the soldiers who returned home in one piece and in sound mind. I was in my early 20’s, naive and fresh out of college, when I volunteered for the army. The politicians called Viet Nam a “conflict”, but to the soldiers on the ground it was “war”. When talking about the war, I would say to family and friends I was a “lover” and never a soldier. When I was discharged, there was no military parade for me and my comrades-in-arms as it was just best to blend into society and move on with one’s life. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make the transition. I knew, on the other hand, many soldiers came home with limbs gone, drug addicted and broken hearted.
A few years ago, I visited the Veterans Hospital in the “Valley” and saw an establishment that made me want to cry. Acres of rundown buildings and landscaping, the complex was old and, because of politics and government neglect, reminded me how lucky I was to have been able to transition to civilian life and live comfortably. At the VA hospital were hundreds of people with serious problems, unlike me, being pushed around in wheel chairs, crutches and sadness in their eyes. Why wasn’t this country honoring these heroes with an environment that was new and cheerful, not old and neglected?
A few years back, I read where the City of Burbank was honoring a local hero by dedicating a city park in his honor. Corporal Larry Leonard Maxam had received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism while serving in Viet Nam. I never knew Corporal Maxam, but I did something I had never done before. I got involved and went to Pacific Park and became one person in a crowd of hundreds honoring an individual I had never met.
As Memorial Day is just around the corner, I am reminded every Tuesday evening how lucky I and other concerned citizens, throughout our great nation, are to be able to appear before our local city government and staff stating how we feel on different issues. We may agree to disagree, but we know we live in a democracy where we would not be put into jail for not agreeing with our elected officials.
This Memorial Day, I would be so honored if the good citizens of Glendale and elsewhere paused for one moment and said a prayer for all the Corporal Maxams who gave up their lives to make it possible to be living in a free country, despite all its warts and shortcomings.