By Mr. Tony Lopez (AMC)May 30, 2017
MIDDLETOWN, Iowa -- During a beautiful, sunny, and peaceful morning, the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant held a Memorial Ceremony, May 25, to remember and honor the 70 patriots who have lost their lives during the history of ammo production here.
Lt. Col. Stephen T. Koehler, IAAAP commander, provided memorial remarks and welcomed a gathering of approximately 125 plant employees, guests and family members, which included several distinguished local government officials.
The ceremony honored the employees who have lost their lives since ammunition production began at the plant in 1941. It was held at the Eagle Park Memorial, a monument erected in 2007, where the employees' names are engraved in granite.
"Memorial Day is not a day of solemn mourning, but a day of celebration," said Koehler. "If we honor and remember those who have served, compassion will prevail, justice will triumph and freedom will reign. We must rejoice in their lives."
During the ceremony, Mr. Randall Kinney, chief of quality assurance, read the names of each person, followed by a solemn triangle ring.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. John McGuiness, President, American Ordnance, operating contractor for IAAAP, provided additional memorial remarks.
"The thing that impresses me about Memorial Day is that it reminds us that you don't have to wear a uniform to serve the nation. Whether you are a teacher, mentor, fireman, police officer or coach, you can serve the nation. I think the 70 people, who served and are enshrined on this memorial here are real life heroes and I'm glad that we're recognizing them," said McGuiness.
Many family members of victims traveled from across Iowa, and Illinois, and other states to attend.
La Vera Leebold, Dallas City, Illinois, is the sister of Sylvia Clark, who died in October of 1967 when she was 18 years old. Leebold traveled with other family members who wore a sticker image of Sylvia on their clothing during the ceremony. The Clark family travels every year to the ceremony to honor Sylvia's memory.
Leebold said the ceremony is important to her and her family. They know people have not forgotten those that lost their lives, including civilians like her sister, who worked at the plant during the Vietnam War era.
This year LeVera shared a poem on the 50th Anniversary of her sister's death. "We've learned to live our lives just day by day. Although much has changed in our lives since you've gone away. Our beautiful memories of your laughter and loving ways are here to stay, forever and a day!"
Distinguished guests in attendance included Iowa State Senator Tom Green; Mayor of West Burlington, Iowa, Hans Trousill; Mayor of Middletown, Iowa, Doug Coyle; as well as numerous leaders from surrounding communities.
The ceremony also featured a Burlington Police Department Color Guard; a firing detail from a Burlington, Iowa, Veteran council; an invocation and prayer by Debra Kinney, First Presbyterian Church of Burlington; the laying of two memorial wreaths; a tree dedication; bagpipes by Gene Wilkerson; and, the playing of taps by Mr. Benjamin Toal.
In November of 1940, 19,000 acres were acquired by the government in the Middletown, Iowa, area. Construction of the Iowa Ordnance Plant began in January 1941, and the first item rolled off the production line in September of 1942.
In 1963, the plant was renamed the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, and in 1998, American Ordnance, LLC, became the operating contractor.
The Iowa Army Ammunition plant is a subordinate installation of Joint Munitions Command, headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. JMC manages 16 ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots that provide ammunition to all military services. Joint Munitions Command produces small-, medium- and large-caliber ammunition items for the Department of Defense. It is the sustainment and logistics integrator for life-cycle management of ammunition, and provides a global presence of technical support to U.S. combat units wherever they are stationed or deployed.