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It is appropriate to say 'Happy Veterans Day,' APG commander tells Bel Air audience

Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, was the guest speaker at the Bel Air Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.
Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, was the guest speaker at the Bel Air Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at Bel Air Memorial Gardens. (David Anderson/The Aegis)

Veterans Day can be a time of somber reflection on the sacrifices veterans have made, especially when community commemorations such as Bel Air’s are held in a cemetery, but it is also a time to celebrate and be happy, according to Army Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor.

Taylor, the senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, was the guest speaker during Saturday’s annual Veterans Day observance in Bel Air Memorial Gardens. The American Legion’s Harford Post 39, of Bel Air, hosted the event.

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“At a cemetery we’re reminded of the cost of freedom, the sacrifices . . . that can weigh heavy on your heart, but I also think today’s a day to celebrate,” Taylor said. “We have so much to be grateful for in this country.”

The brief ceremony, which happened on a partly-sunny and cold afternoon, was held in front of the memorial to Capt. H. Merle Bailey, who died during World War II.

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Four members of the Post 39 color guard stood at attention during the proceedings.

“We are so thankful for our freedoms and the service members that did their best to guarantee the American way of life,” Taylor said.

He encouraged those present to “carry this moment with you” while going back to their lives and their weekend activities.

“It’s appropriate to say, ‘Happy Veterans Day,’ because I do want you to be happy today,” Taylor said. “We have so much, like I said, to be grateful for.”

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The general reminded the audience that “we are a nation at war,” as the Global War on Terror is now in its 16th year. He stressed that members of the military do not take an oath to a king or emperor, but an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s that Constitution . . . that says that we are all born equal and we are all equally deserving of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, and that we are due a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people,” he said.

Taylor became APG’s senior commander and the commander of the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, at APG in April, making Saturday his first Veterans Day in Harford County.

He said later that he spent Saturday morning meeting members of American Legion Bernard L. Tobin Post 128 in Aberdeen, and he was the guest speaker at the Havre de Grace Veterans Day observance, hosted by Legion Post 47.

Taylor said the sentiments of community Veterans Day celebrations have been “fairly constant" during his Army career, even though the places have been different.

“[Residents] want to get together to honor those who have defended the Constitution and the American way of life,” he said.

Wally Mueller, a past commander of Post 39 and a veteran of the Vietnam War, explained to the audience why Bel Air’s Veterans Day event typically happens in the memorial gardens.

He said he visited the Merle Bailey monument after his wife told him about seeing it as she attended a funeral for a friend.

“I read it and I looked at it, and I realized, having been a combat veteran, how lucky I was," Mueller said.

He told himself, “what better place to come on Veterans Day — to realize that we made it, especially for the combat veterans.”

Dick Gebhard, another past Post 39 commander and the master of ceremonies Saturday, said there are tributes to other combat veterans in the memorial gardens, veterans who are “buried overseas but remembered here.”

State Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Bel Air native and veteran of the Iraq War, said veterans have the “hard-won blessings of a sacred bond.”

“That’s a bond that they have forged through their privileged association with some pretty incredible people,” Cassilly said.

Shanelle Hooper, of Fawn Grove, Pa., attended Saturday’s ceremony with her 3-year-old daughter, Jazmin, and her father, David, a Bel Air resident and Vietnam veteran.

“I’m just proud of him and want to be here with him as he honors his fellow fallen soldiers and those that are still MIA,” Hooper said.

She cited the importance of teaching children, such as her daughter, “the value of life and those who protect our lives.”

“You're never too young to respect other people and their sacrifices that they've made for our country,” Hooper said.

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