By Clemens GainesJuly 13, 2018
Leaders and Soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command represented Aberdeen Proving Ground at the Havre De Grace Independence Day Parade on July 1, the Aberdeen Ironbirds baseball game July 3, and the Bel Air July 4th parade.
On July 1 Sgt. Evan Warnke and Spc. Stephen Melzer represented the command by driving an up armored Humvee as part of a larger APG contingent participating in the Havre De Grace Parade.
At Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, the commanding general threw out the first pitch, the honor guard presented the colors, a first lieutenant sang the national anthem, and an award winning Soldier was honored.
After a quick warm-up and interactions with the Ironbirds players, Brig. Gen. James Bonner threw out the first pitch to his senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Graham.
"It was an awesome evening partnering with the ball team. We even brought in a Hall of Fame Catcher from Ohio," said Bonner, a native of Anna, Ill. "The honor guard looked awesome and the national anthem was a hit.
"I've been a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, but this is the first time I've thrown out the first pitch at any game, and it is great to represent the Army, and APG, to the Aberdeen community."
Bonner and Graham both wore unique gray baseball caps with the phrase "Stay 20th CBRNE Command".
Sgt. 1st Class John Binot led the five Soldier honor guard onto the field to present the colors behind the pitcher's mound.
"This is the seventh time we have presented the colors this year. It is an honor to show civilians what we can do," said the Asbury Park, New Jersey native. "This is always a great experience for the Honor Guard."
Other members of the honor guard team included Sgt. Corey Mclendon of Statesboro, Georgia, Spc. Tedrick Jackson of Fort Worth, Texas, Spc. William Pridgen of Kinston, North Carolina, Spc. Kayla Riehl of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Pfc. Heathcliff Rubio of Belton, Texas. Riehl, who is the current APG Soldier of the Year, was honored as the "Hero of the Game" before the Ironbirds came to bat in the fourth inning.
The national anthem was sung by 1st Lt. Shavon Holman, from Anniston, Alabama.
"I began singing the national anthem a cappella in 2017 when I was asked to sing for the District of Columbia National Guard annual ball," shared Holman. "Singing without music always tends to make me a bit more nervous because nothing is there to compliment your voice or hide any failed notes. In such cases, I simply pray that the notes exit my mouth as intended."
A crowd of 5,531 watched the Ironbirds play the Hudson Valley Renegades. The audience included more than 100 Soldiers, civilians and family members from the command to support and cheer for the Ironbirds. However, the Renegades won the game 1-0.
On July 4, Bonner and Graham, who is from Warren, Ohio, walked in front of the honor guard and an up armored Humvee in the annual Bel Air Independence Day parade.
Throughout the one mile parade route, Binot quietly kept the honor guard in step by calling a cadence of "left, left, left, right, left" and the command's leaders greeted the crowd with "Happy Birthday, America" with returned shouts of "Thank you for your service."
Mclendon, who is a senior information technology specialist, joined the honor guard because he wanted the chance to represent his country, the Army, and his command.
He was very proud to participate in the Independence Day festivities and was surprised by the show of patriotism, "The amount of people involved in the parade. The crowd and size of the actual parade were vastly larger than what I'm used to."
The Humvee troop commander was Sgt. Maj. David Rio, the driver was Spc. Justin LaToree and the gunner was Spc. Albert Vences. Rio is from Oolitic, Indiana, while LaToree is a native of Sunland, California, and Vences is from Tampa, Florida.
The importance of participating in community events was not lost on Rio.
"I think it's very important for us to participate in events like the parade because it allows us a chance to engage with the community and to show that the military is part of their community," said Rio, the operations NCO for the 20th CBRNE Command Group. "I think this is especially important on a smaller post like APG, where most members of the community have very little interaction with military members in uniform."
The Soldiers of the 20th CBRNE Command were welcomed at all three events by crowds that were thankful for their participation and service to our country.
"My favorite part of the parade was to see the reaction of the crowd as we were passing," shared Rio. "There was a lot of genuine enthusiasm and support being shown and it reminds you what the Army means to the American public which is easily lost in our daily lives where we interact with other service members."