Friday, June 27, 2008

Around Town: The missing names

As soon as I read about him, I called my friend Denise Hovland, from the Thursday Club.

“Denise,” I said, “did you know that a guy from La Cañada went down with the USS Scorpion?”

The USS Scorpion was a fast attack nuclear submarine which was “declared lost” in June 1968. Aboard the ship were 99 crewmen. Among them was Navy Lt. John Charles Sweet, a 1964 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and the son of two Lockheed employees.

John Charles Sweet was from La Cañada. His family lived on Chehalem Road.

“When did we forget him?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question.

For many years, Memorial Day in La Cañada meant the parade. The “memorial” was a bit of an afterthought. Not until 1999 did the idea emerge that it might be nice to install memorial plaques for those who died in combat during World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

There are many dangers in not having a memorial. On a practical level, if no one keeps track, year-by-year and war-by-war, it’s easy to overlook a casualty or two. Fifty or 60 years later, it becomes a research project, dependent on libraries, news archives and the fading memories of locals.

Locals like Denise Hovland. She grew up here, but even I was flabbergasted by her reply: “He’s not the only one. Pvt. 1st Class Paul Austin Seeley died in Korea in 1955 and Lt. Roscoe Woodbury’s plane went down during World War II,” she said.

Seeley and Woodbury were both from La Cañada.

I immediately contacted City Manager Mark Alexander at City Hall. I told him about Lt. Woodbury, the World War II pilot, killed in action in 1943. Mark’s response was swift and respectful. He said his staff will arrange to add Lt. Woodbury’s name to the World War II plaque. Then he added this:

“It is always distressing to learn of another La Cañadan who had to pay the ultimate price in the protection of our nation’s freedoms, regardless of when that sacrifice was made. But, to them we are truly grateful and we can all take some comfort in knowing that his sacrifice will not be forgotten and that his name will be honored along side his colleagues who shared in the same devotion, commitment and service to our country.”

Next week: More on Lt. John Charles Sweet and the USS Scorpion.

Around town:
The missing names
By Anita Susan Brenner


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada resident. Not every Marine dies in combat. To support cancer research, come Swing for a Cure at the 4th Annual Andrew Torres Memorial Golf Classic on June 23rd. See for more information.La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

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