By Tony Lopez, Joint Munitions CommandMay 25, 2018
MIDDLETOWN, Iowa -- During a beautiful, sunny, and peaceful morning, the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant held its annual memorial ceremony, May 24, 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 permanently engraved in a granite marker.
"No words can ever truly express the heartfelt condolences from a grateful nation," said Koehler. "None of these patriots should ever fade from our memory and by honoring them in this annual ceremony, to lead off a solemn Memorial Day weekend, they never will. Today is about honoring the heroes who are here only in spirit--to keep their memories alive."
During the ceremony, Mr. Randall Kinney, chief of quality assurance, slowly read the name of each fallen employee.
"Our Soldiers and civilians alike have shown the courage, honor, and commitment to fight for the values that we hold so dear. That is why I am happy to be here with you today to celebrate Memorial Day. I'm here today, right where I want to be, with the outstanding Iowa Army Ammunition Plant staff, our honored Veterans, and to recognize these 70 individuals who gave their lives here whose names are etched on this monument. I think I speak for everyone here, thank you for our freedom and thank you for what you have done for this great nation," Koehler said.
Don Halferty, vice president, American Ordnance, operating contractor for IAAAP, provided additional memorial remarks.
"Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to reflect on all the wonderful memories that were created, that you will always have with those who were part of your life and served our country while working at IAAAP. On behalf of American Ordnance, thank you for making time to attend today's Memorial Day ceremony," said Halferty.
Many family members of victims traveled from across Iowa, 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.
"The ceremony is important to our family. They know people have not forgotten those that lost their lives, including civilians like my sister, who worked at the plant during the Vietnam War era," said Leebold.
Distinguished guests in attendance included Command Sgt. Maj. Tomeka O'Neill, Joint Munitions Command; Hans Trousill, Mayor of West Burlington, Iowa; Joe Kremzelok, regional director for Iowa Senator, Jonie Ernst; 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, Veterans Council; an invocation and prayer by Pastor Tamara Wirt, Danville United Methodist Church; the laying of two memorial wreaths; a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" by Gene Wilkerson; and, the playing of taps by Mark Eveleth.
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 ammo 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. The 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.