April 22, 2000-- Foothill Leader

Veteran memorial gets unfair treatment

By Anita Susan Brenner

Dave Spence became mayor at Monday's City Council meeting. The audience was full of his family and friends. There were also supporters of outgoing Mayor Carol Liu.

Many of these people applauded when my daughter, Rachel, and Bert England addressed the council during public comments to ask for installation of three plaques in Memorial Park.

The first plaque would bear the names of the five La Canadans who died in Vietnam -- Loren Engstrom, Roger Rose, Roy Fryman, James Bauder and William Pedersen. It would be followed by plaques for those who died in World War II and Korea.

Each plaque costs $500. The project would be funded by voluntary pledges. There would be no cost to the taxpayers.

Bert asked the council to expedite the process, so that the first plaque could be unveiled at this year's Memorial Day services on May 29.

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As outgoing mayor, Liu had the power to grant Bert's request and to order "Project Remembrance" to be placed on the agenda for the next City Council meeting.

Carol Liu rolled her eyes once, and remained silent.

Later that evening, after the change of command, council members Jerry Martin and Deborah Orlik asked newly minted Mayor Dave Spence to place Project Remembrance on the agenda for the next City Council meeting. That way, the first plaque could be installed in time for Memorial Day services.

Dave's first act as mayor was to deny the request.

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Even though the Jack Hastings Memorial Gazebo had been recently approved by the council (at a $9,000 cost to the taxpayers) without remand to the Parks and Recreation Commission, Spence insisted that Project Remembrance must go to the Parks and Recreation Commission before he will place it on the council's agenda.

City staff pointed out that there are no Parks and Recreation Commission meetings scheduled until after Memorial Day, but Spence stuck to his guns.

The irony of Spence's and Liu's failure to help Project Remembrance is that they know the importance of preserving local history. They know the children of La Canada Flintridge read the names on brass plaques. Maybe a soccer ball rolls out of bounds, past the grass and comes to rest beside the gazebo. A child runs after the ball. As he stoops to retrieve it, he looks up and sees the brass plaque. He reads the names. Then, he grabs the ball and runs back to his friends.

Spence and Liu know this because there already is a plaque in Memorial Park. That plaque has five names. Not the names of our war dead. The names are -- David Spence, Carol Liu, Jim Edwards, Joan Feehan and Jack Hastings.

Ten years ago, the council, including Spence and Liu, voted to use taxpayer funds to install a plaque in Memorial Park bearing their own names, They never thought to install a plaque to memorialize the names of the young men from La Canada Flintridge who have died in the service of their country.

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A Navy Captain once asked me, "How did you teach your children about patriotism?"

I told him that we don't do much, but every year, our family attends the Memorial Day services in La Canada Flintridge's Memorial Park. Our kids have lea

rned about patriotism at the Memorial Day services. In fact, there were years when we have skipped the parade, but we always went to the services. We told our kids the services were more important than the parade.

Don Hingst, former principal of Palm Crest and La Canada Elementary schools, has always organized the Memorial Day services. He has invited elected officials at all levels of government. He has arranged for the high school band. He contacts the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to do the flag ceremony. All of us deeply appreciate Hingst's hard work.

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Perhaps as a reflection of the gulf between military and civilian society, in the early years, we were occasionally subjected to unusual speeches, often given by good people who had searched for some sort of personal military connection.

In recent years, the focus has shifted. Veterans are asked to come up on the stage. The pols speak less about themselves and more about others.

Last year, Rabbi Gilbert Kollin, a retired Air Force colonel, asked us to remember the young people, ordinary people just like us, who walked these streets, breathed this air, and who woke up one bright morning not knowing it would be their last. They all loved life. They all had families who loved them. Their sacrifice insured our freedom.

That's when I realized that I didn't know their names.