ABERDEEN, Md. — Guests at the 2016 Veterans Day Ceremony in the City of Aberdeen were challenged to remember the nation’s veterans and ensure the care of service members and their families during and after their service. The annual ceremony, held at Veterans Memorial Park, is hosted by Aberdeen Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10028; Bernard L. Tobin American Legion Post 128; and Korean War Veterans Chapter 271.
The guest speaker, Maj. Gen. Kirk F. Vollmecke, Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, or PEO IEW&S, shared a message that supported the program theme: “Honor and remember the brave veterans for serving our country and protecting our freedoms.”
Vollmecke said Veterans Day is, “a day to honor not just those who have fought for us in battle, but all of the outstanding men and women who have served our nation’s armed forces since its founding more than 237 years ago.”
“The willingness and legacy of selfless service are part of our country’s tapestry and rich history,” he said. “We thank all of you who continue the great traditions of honorable service to our nation.”
Of the nation’s 21 million living veterans, about 430,000 reside in Maryland. Vollmecke said he feels privileged to work on a daily basis with veterans employed at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
He asked listeners to commit themselves to ensure Soldiers, veterans and their families have access to employment opportunities, education and health care during and after their service.
“Tributes like this can ring hollow if we as a nation don’t take the necessary actions to ensure all our veterans have access to the care and resources they not only deserve but have earned,” he said.
“All veterans have much to offer our great nation [and] all Americans are charged with the responsibility to ensure the service and sacrifices of all our veterans are not forgotten.
The program included the playing of the national anthem and other patriotic music by the Aberdeen Middle School band led by Music Director Sue Hopkins; a memorial salute by Post 128 honor guard; the invocation and benediction by Dave Mial, Post 128 chaplain; and a wreath laying ceremony.
Ceremony guests included Aberdeen Mayor Patrick L. McGrady, Chief of Police Henry Trabert, Councilman Tim Lindecamp and VFW 5th District Commander Sam Washington. Organization commanders Robert L. Brown of Post 10028; Andy Powell of Post 128 and Nick Guerra of KWV 271 led the wreath-laying ceremony. Guests were invited to a luncheon at Post 10028 where a Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home ceremony followed.
The guest speaker, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie W. Spencer, a consultant for the U.S. Vietnam War Commemoration, presented Vietnam War Commemoration coins and certificates to 22 veterans in attendance. Vollmecke congratulated each one.
Afterward, guests and participants shared their thoughts about the observance.
“The whole thing was beautiful and I enjoyed it,” said Vietnam-era veteran Kenneth D. Jimerson of Port Deposit. Jimerson said he lost a brother in Vietnam and he was glad to meet Vollmecke and shake his hand after the program.
“I just appreciated what he said and I wanted to thank him for being here,” he said.
“I’m just proud of the men and women who served and the freedom they’ve given us to live the lives we do,” added Betty J. Stahm, president, VFW Auxiliary, Department of Maryland.
Desert Shield/Storm veteran Al Sneed, commander of VFW Post 6054 in Perryman, who retired from Army field artillery after a 21-year career in 2001, said he never misses the chance to, “comes out to support all veterans.”
“People who served and fought for this country gave everyone else the freedom to grow and become leaders,” he said. “And we keep serving and setting the example. I like to say it takes a veteran.”
Eighty-year-old Thomas Burns Sr. of Aberdeen said he served in the Army Infantry in the 1950s and as one-time Aberdeen town commissioner.
“I always come out here just to honor fellow vets,” he said. “On this day, this is the nicest place to be.”
On post observance
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, or RDECOM, presented a Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center Wednesday, Nov. 9.
RDECOM Chief of Staff, Col. Raymond K. Compton, hosted the event, which included the singing of the national anthem by Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Associate Director Michelle Goddard and a prayer by RDECOM Command Chaplain Lt. Col. Jeffrey Dillard.
A group of Soldier and civilian riders led the installation’s Veterans Day observances with the flagging of graves at the APG North and APG South (Edgewood) cemeteries.
The guest speaker, retired Maj. David A. Yensan, who served two tours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam talked about his 20 years of service in the Army. Those 20 years, he said, changed him from a kid who only knew how to “shovel snow” and “milk cows,” to the accomplished man that he is today.
“I came to the Army with nothing to offer, [and] in 1981, I retired as a major with a Master of Arts [degree]. It’s a place where you can advance, [like] no other country allows.”
Amy Clawiter, a military spouse brought her two young sons to the event. She said she thought it was important for them to recognize the day as well.
“I just feel like our children need to know the sacrifices that all these men and women have made… “I feel like [on] Veterans Day we shouldn’t just remember and honor them, it should be all the time,” she said.
Compton, who closed out the ceremony stressed the importance of what veterans have accomplished throughout American history.
“The land of the free, the home of the brave, the beacon of hope; all these are just words,” Compton said. “And the only reason we have these words is because of the sacrifice of the veterans that we have here in our country.”
Story by Yvonne Johnson, APG News
APG News Staff Writer Lauren Finnegan contributed to this article