Supporters break ground on memorial to APG workers
— The APG Centennial Celebration Association, which will coordinate events throughout 2017 to celebrate the 100th year of Aberdeen Proving Ground, is overseeing the construction of a memorial to honor the military and civilian workers who have lost their lives while working at the Harford County Army post during the past century.
At least 46 workers have died in accidents on the job at the post, which was founded in 1917 during World War I, as well as 82 workers who were victims of the worldwide 1918 influenza pandemic, Charlie Nietubicz, chair of the association’s APG memorial committee, said during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday.
The memorial will be erected in Festival Park in downtown Aberdeen.
The Army post, Harford County’s largest employer, has a military and civilian population that ranges from 18,000 to 22,000 people per day.
The post started as a munitions testing center. It has become an internationallyknown location for its “leading edge accomplishments” in research and development on military weapons, vehicles and equipment, chemical, biological and radiological warfare defense, testing and evaluation, as well as cyber defense, said Larry Muzzelo, deputy of the commanding general of APG’s CommunicationsElectronics Command.
“This has not come, though, without a sacrifice by our APG military and civilian family,” he said.
Muzzelo and other dignitaries made remarks while inside the meeting hall at the American Legion Bernard L. Tobin Post 128 in Aberdeen, before the group headed across North Parke Street to the memorial site in Festival Park for the official groundbreaking.
The parcel, which is in a section of the park at the intersection of North Parke and Centennial Lane, was donated by the City of Aberdeen.
“It is appropriate that this memorial be located here in the community beyond our fence line,” Muzzelo said. “The Team APG workforce and their families shop at the same stores, attend the same churches and go to the same schools and are integral members of our community.”
Nietubicz read a passage from the book “The Big Gun,” published in 1918 by Ordnance Department, USA at APG honoring workers who had died by that point in history.
“They served where the roar of the guns was incessant, making these very guns safe for the men who would turn them on the advancing foe,” Nietubicz read. “In this same work, some of them gave their lives, others were victims of dread disease, but all died in service of their country; they answered the call as did the others who served.”
He noted 11 women are among the workers who died in accidents. People lost their lives in incidents such as explosions while building munitions — including those that held poison gas or white phosphorus — vehicle accidents or drownings.
Civilian worker George H. Lazzaro Jr., 41, died Jan. 30, 2013, while working in the “super pond,” the post’s former underwater testing facility. Two Navy divers, Diver First Class James Reyher, 28, and Diver Second Class Ryan Harris, 23, died while working in the pond about a month later.
Nietubicz said APG workers “made the supreme sacrifice that man can be called upon to make,” reading from the book.
Construction of the memorial, which will cost an estimated $52,000 to $57,000, is slated to begin next week before it gets too cold to pour concrete, according to Nietubicz.
The front plaque includes an engraving of an artillery piece and a message that the monument “stands in humble” tribute to Army civilians, military personnel and contractors who have lost their lives on post during the past century.
More than 100 events, put on by the post as well as entities such as the public schools, library system and Harford Community College, are scheduled throughout 2017 as APG observes its centennial.
The APG Centennial Celebration Association will coordinate those events, Nietubicz said.
The association is raising money in the community for the memorial. People can purchase a brick for the memorial’s foundation, with their name engraved on it by a laser. People can also contribute to the association to support either the memorial or the organization’s other centennial programs.
Dignitaries at Friday’s celebration presented oversized checks to association leaders representing their contributions, such as a $40,000 tourism grant from Harford County, $5,000 from HCC and $5,000 from Freedom Federal Credit Union.
Visit the association’s website, http:// apg100.org, for more information on making donations, as well as APG’s history and the centennial celebration.
Officials with the centennial association are looking beyond next year’s celebration, though, as they plan to build a Technology, Heritage and Education Center in Aberdeen to honor APG’s history and its role in Harford County. The center would rival the former Army Ordnance Museum, which was on the APG grounds until it closed about seven years ago and moved to Ft. Lee, Va.
Barney Michel, president of the association said the proposed center will be a “lasting permanent fixture in the community of Aberdeen recognizing the technology that has grown out of Aberdeen Proving Ground for the last 100 years that has literally changed the world.”
The City of Aberdeen will celebrate its 125th anniversary next year, the same time as APG’s centennial, Mayor Patrick McGrady said.
“The city is a gateway to one of the nation’s premier research and development, test and evaluation installations and has welcomed hundreds of thousands of APG’s workforce into its community,” Karen Holt, Harford County’s economic development director, said.