APG honors veterans as 'Soldiers for Life'
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Team APG honored the service and sacrifice of the nation's veterans during the Veterans Day ceremony at the APG North (Aberdeen) post theater Nov. 12.

Ceremony highlights included a performance by the U.S. Army Drill Team, from the HHC, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard).

The program's emcee, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Conway, of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, told attendees that "veterans are a precious commodity."

"Veterans of all wars share a kindred spirit - the love of country, the love of freedom and the willingness to sacrifice everything," he said.

APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, told attendees about "Soldiers for Life," a campaign created by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno to ensure that veterans and their Families successfully reintegrate after they leave the Army. He added that many military veterans continue to serve their country as DOD civilians and contractors.

"Our veterans are not just in our communities, in many cases our veterans are our communities," he said. "Mere words cannot express how appreciative I am of what you have done for this nation."

Crawford introduced the audience to World War II veteran Francis Sparr, a D-Day survivor and a recipient of two Bronze Stars and two Purple Heart medals.

After meeting Sparr at a local restaurant, Crawford sent him a personal invitation to the ceremony, which Sparr said he plans to frame.

"Being recognized like this is one of the nicest things that ever happened to me," Sparr said proudly. "I am still part of the Army after being out 69 years."

Retired Col. Walter (Wally) Mueller was the guest speaker. Mueller's military assignments included a tour in Vietnam as a dustoff pilot with the 498th Air Ambulance Company. From 2001 to 2006, he was the deputy director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in Reisterstown. In retirement, he is an active member of American Legion Post 39 in Bel Air as well as Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 588.

During his speech, Mueller said veterans continue to serve their country after they leave the military.

"Veterans, we are not victims, we are victors," he said. "All veterans are victors in what they have accomplished."

Mueller introduced his "friend and personal hero," James "Jim" Monaghan, a World War II veteran and a D-Day survivor. After the war, Monaghan spent more than 30 years as a state trooper and over 8 years as the Bel Air chief of police.

Mueller also recounted the heroic actions of retired Army colonel Bill Badger, who received a gunshot wound to the head while helping to disarm the gunman who shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Mueller said Badger was his boss when he worked at APG in the late 1970s.

"He had a stroke based on the gunshot wound to the head," he said. "But he is still serving."

The program included a video tribute to the helicopter crews of the Vietnam War. Lt. Col. Jerry Owens, installation chaplain, presented the invocation and benediction and garrison Pfc. Stacy Dobson, sang the national anthem.

After the ceremony, Vietnam veteran Joe Wiest, from the APG Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, called the program "outstanding."

"The message was very emotional, very true, and very necessary," he said.

Michael L. Brown, who retired from the Army in 2009, appreciated that veterans ranging from World War II to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were in attendance and were recognized.

"I thought that the program was outstanding, it was lovely," he said. "It is critical that we recognize their service. We should never forget."

Monaghan, who traveled to the ceremony with Mueller, said he attends military ceremonies whenever he has the opportunity.

"I thought the program was wonderful," he said. "It's great that they do this for veterans."