APG officer leads Aberdeen tribute to local veterans
November 19, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Every Veterans Day in the City of Aberdeen, as well as in communities around the country, members of Veterans Service Organizations and local citizens come together at to tribute veterans of all generations, living and dead.
The familiar scene repeated itself on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour -- as the Bernard L. Tobin American Legion Post 128 hosted this year's ceremony assisted by members of Aberdeen Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10028, Fitzgerald-Moore Catholic War Veterans Post 1841 and Korean War Veterans Chapter 271.
The guest speaker, Col. Debra D. Daniels, military deputy of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, a part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, talked about the common qualities of sacrifice, endurance and unity among veterans.
Commissioned in 1987 as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, Daniels' has served as everything from platoon leader to project engineer in places like Korea, Germany and Fort Benning, Ga. where she deployed to Somalia to support Operation Restore Hope. Along with multiple stateside assignments, which included the Pentagon as the Executive Officer for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology, Daniels served in Iraq as Commander, Contract Operations, Joint Contracting Command, supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Daniels greeted listeners on behalf of APG Senior Leader, Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell. She reviewed the history of Veterans Day from its start as Armistice Day during World War I to its continuance through presidential proclamation by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.
She said that while the proclamation directed no form of ceremony beyond display of the U.S. flag on public buildings, since then, veterans across the country have organized "fitting services and testimonials."
"Veterans guard this day with sacred vigilance and this solemn trust is ours to keep," she said.
Daniels quoted President Ronal Reagan's proclamation making 1986 The Year of the Flag, saying, "'The colors of the flag signify the qualities of the human spirit … red for courage and readiness to sacrifice, white for pure intentions and high ideals and blue for vigilance and justice.'"
"Veterans honor our flag and by doing so they uphold these colors and everything for which they stand," she said.
She added that President Abraham Lincoln defined what Soldiers stood for in the carefully worded-speech known as the Gettysburg Address; calling it "the ultimate tribute to valiant warriors, living and dead and the causes for which they fight and are ultimately judged."
"One hundred and fifty years later President Lincoln's words clearly define our veterans who risk everything in the defense of liberty," she said, noting that after taking off the uniform, veterans continue to stand united for the nation as well as for fellow veterans.
"United we stand to protect and defend our nation; united we stand to preserve liberty and justice for all; united we stand pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America; united we stand having answered the noble calling of service; united we stand in continued service to our country; united we stand to honor each lifetime of service rendered and united we stand for all who have given the full measure of devotion and are no longer able to stand," she said.
"It is our duty," she added, "to keep this sacred trust to honor all veterans. I ask you to remember our veterans deployed around the world and the families waiting for their safe return."
Post 128 Chaplain Rev. W. Lewis Geigan, who offered the invocation and benediction, thanked Daniels for her remarks, stating, "I had tears on my cheeks."
"Please remember the pain of our Wounded Warriors," he said.
After Geigan and his wife Linda led the singing of "God Bless America" before the crowd dispersed to Post 128 for refreshments. Several remarked that they found the event "memorable."
"It was very emotional, I've never been to anything like this," said Diane Peyton of Edgewood who attended the ceremony with her Navy veteran husband Edward, their daughter Melissa Alley and granddaughter Madison, a member of the Aberdeen Middle School band.
Edward Peyton said he was surprised at Daniel's youthful appearance given her background.
"The speech was very moving and the speaker was outstanding," he said.
Richard Stone, a Directorate of Public Works civilian and a first lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol attended the ceremony with his brothers, and fellow Air National Guard members, Master Sgt. Ray Stone, Master Sgt. Bob Stone and Sr. Master Sgt. Eric Stone, a former APG police officer. With them was Air National Guard Capt. Richard Gibbons of the Albany, N.Y. police department. Eric Stone retired the same day after a 32-year career.
"I'm from Aberdeen and I chose this day to retire to honor all the men and women I served with in my 32 years of service," he said. "It's a great day to be a veteran."
Master of Ceremonies, Dave Johnson, former Post 128 commander, extended his thanks to all participants, organizers and volunteers.
"It was a great ceremony and the guest speaker was very well received," Johnson said.
The ceremony included music by the Aberdeen Middle School Band led by Sue Hopkins and remarks from Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett. The Post 128 honor guard fired a memorial salute and bugler Larry Coulson played "Taps."
Post 10028 Commander Sam Washington said he planned to ask Daniels to return next year when his organization hosts the event. A retired Maryland National Guard captain with 25 years of service, as well as a retired Maryland State Trooper, Washington said he and other veterans have no problem identifying with the unity Daniels cited in her speech.
"We might go our separate ways the rest of the year but we always come together for Veterans Day," he said. "It is what we are. It is what we do."