By Audra Calloway and Tracy RobillardSeptember 9, 2010
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - The Picatinny community honored a fallen New Jersey Marine by dedicating a new Pyrotechnic Research and Technology Complex in his name during a ceremony here Sept. 8.
2nd Lt. John Thomas Wroblewski, 25, died April 6, 2004 due to injuries received from hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A graduate from Rutgers University and native of Oakridge, N.J., he was the first service member from Morris County to die in the Iraq war.
"This facility will stand as a memorial of John's selfless service, dedication to duty and ultimate sacrifice," said Picatinny Arsenal Commanding General and Program Executive Officer for Ammunition, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Maddux. "It's important to remember him and those like him who believed so strongly in our nation's ideals."
The building is now known as the 2nd Lt. John T. Wroblewski Pyrotechnics Research & Technology Complex.
Maddux called the day "bittersweet," recounting Wroblewski's absence with sadness, but noting that the new facility that bears his name will help the Army develop products to keep our service members safer.
The $18 million, 27,000 square-foot facility named in Wroblewski's honor will house the only organization for pyrotechnic research, development and engineering within the U.S. Army.
"It is strong, solid and handsome -- as buildings go -- but a building can only go so far in mirroring the character of the Marine to whom it is dedicated. That task is reserved for the people who will perform their missions inside its walls," said Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center Director, Dr. Gerardo Melendez.
Picatinny scientists and engineers will use the facility to develop items such as countermeasure flares, illuminating candles for mortars and artillery, primers, tracers, delay mechanisms for hand grenades and fuzes, expulsion charges for payload munitions, Soldier signaling devices and training simulators.
"We don't face a determined and hostile enemy ... the perils of uncertainty ... the separation from loved ones ... nor do we understand the personal sacrifices you make for our nation," Melendez said, directing his comments to members of Wroblewski's unit, the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, attending the ceremony.
"I can assure you, however, that we take on our technical and scientific challenges with the greatest urgency, because we understand, like you Marines do, that failure is not an option."
The facility will support all branches of the U.S. military, by providing a facility where engineers from government agencies, academia and industry can do joint design, fabrication, testing and evaluation of pyrotechnic munitions at one location.
During the dedication ceremony, members of the Wroblewski family shared their memories of him with the crowd, which included Wroblewski family friends, Picatinnyians and service members.
Wroblewski's brother Richard described the fallen Marine as dedicated, motivated, resourceful, hilarious, courageous and modest. However, the most notable characteristic Richard remembered was Wroblewski's selflessness, adding that Wroblewski was always concerned about everyone else's welfare.
"He lived an extremely honorable life, from his first breath on April 16 1978 until his last on April 4, 2004," Richard said.
"He gave his life for his Marines, for all of us here and for the red white and blue."
Maddux, Melendez, Col. John Boule II, District Engineer and Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers New York District, Lt. Col. William Vivian, Battalion Commander of the Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, Senator Anthony Bucco of the 25th Legislative District and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of the 11th District spoke during the ceremony, as well as Wroblewski's father John and mother Shawn, and brother's David and Richard.
David Swanson, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter embedded with Wroblewski's unit in Iraq also shared his memories of the Marine.
(Ret) Marine Capt. Ben Cascio also presented a photograph he took of the twin towers two weeks before 9/11. The photo will hang in the pyrotechnics facility in Wroblewski's honor.