The Aberdeen IronBirds baseball hosted its annual salute to APG and the U.S. armed forces during Military Appreciation Night festivities at Ripken Stadium Aug. 6.
APG Soldiers took part in pre-game proceedings and performed entertaining contests during between-inning breaks. Along with several other APG organizations, they also hosted informational displays in the stadium passageway.
APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford led the APG crew and threw out the game's first pitch to IronBirds infielder Alexander Lee. Crawford was joined by CECOM Chief of Staff Col. Colonel Charles E. Harris III; APG Garrison Commander Col. James E. Davis and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey O. Adams. In addition, more than 20 Soldiers unfurled an American flag in the stadium outfield as Sgt. JaVon Griffith of Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic sang the national anthem.
Installation guests included Gold Star Family members and nearly 40 Vietnam War veterans who were saluted for the war's 50th Anniversary Commemoration. Crawford expressed thanks to Harford, Baltimore and Cecil counties for "coming out to recognize your military" and he asked all veterans to stand and be recognized.
"Thank you for what you've given to our country," he told the families and veterans. "And thank you," he told the audience, "for taking the opportunity to salute your veterans. We thank you for supporting our military."
APG organization displays included the Army Substance Abuse Program, Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic and the Army Wellness Center, as well as the 20th CBRNE Command and 22nd Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort).
At the 22nd Chemical Battalion display, Spc. Patrick McElhinney helped pack Sgt. William Ely into an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) bomb suit and helmet to walk among the stadium guests.
"It draws a lot of attention. Lots of people will stop him and ask questions," McElhinney said.
A Vietnam War display coordinated by the garrison's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security and the graphic artists from the Visual Information Services Division, featured the framed stories of 15 veterans who have been featured in the APG News "Remembering 'Nam" series. Fourteen of the 15 veterans were on hand for the game.
Carol Baker of Bel Air, a Vietnam-era veteran and commander of the American Legion Department of Maryland, whose September 2014 story kicked off the series, called the evening wonderful.
"It's a good feeling to be recognized and for these guys to no longer be looked at with disdain," she said.
Vietnam veteran Frederick Ryan of Abingdon added that several people thanked him for his service.
"It made me feel pretty good," he said. "It's great that they set aside this time to say thank you. The guys deserve it."
James O'Neill, a Vietnam veteran from North East, said he was impressed with the military presence.
"I got to meet a two-star general, two full-bird colonels and a command sergeant major," he said. "I love how they took the time to come greet all of us. I even thanked a few people for their service. I just wish I could do more."
Janice Chance, first vice president and chaplain of the Maryland Chapter American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., added that the group's national president has ordered a partnering with the Baltimore Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) chapter during the commemoration period.
"We want to honor them because of what they endured," She said. "When you come back from war you should be praised, not treated like they were. They were drafted, did their time and then were stepped over and mistreated. We just don't want the nation to forget that these people are heroes too. We can't undo the past but we can make their present better."
Also honored during the ceremony were members of the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which provides care for survivors of the fallen. TAPS hosts the National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief camp and provides a national peer support network and no-cost grief resources, all at no cost to surviving families and loved ones.