APG commander honors fallen military, police at Aberdeen Memorial Day ceremony

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Aberdeen Proving Ground’s senior commander honored the more than 1 million American service members who have lost their lives during wartime in the nation’s 242-year history, but he also invoked another group of people who protect freedom and safety, sometimes at the cost of their lives — law enforcement officers.

“It’s their shared commitment to safeguarding human life, mutual sacrifice and a cause much larger than one’s self, and [it’s] willingness to lay down your life for your fellow citizen, who you may have never met,” Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor said of what connects the military and civilian law enforcement communities.

Taylor was the keynote speaker at Aberdeen’s annual Memorial Day ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park, hosted by the American Legion’s Bernard L. Tobin Post 128, with support from VFW Post 10028, both of Aberdeen.

David Heredia Jr., the Legion post commander, introduced Taylor, saying he is responsible for about 28,000 soldiers, civiliar workers, contractors and retirees who “live and work aboard” APG. The Army post is Harford County’s largest employer.

The general cited, in his remarks, the recent National Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15. Tributes are paid on that day to officers killed or disabled in the line of duty.

“That point hit home for us very recently with the death of our local officer, Amy Caprio,” Taylor said.

Caprio, a 29-year-old Baltimore County Police officer and Harford County resident, died May 21 in Perry Hall while confronting a teen suspected of taking part in a burglary. The youth, 16-year-old Dawnta Harris of Baltimore, was sitting in a vehicle when Caprio confronted him. He allegedly ran over the officer, fatally injuring her while trying to get away. Harris and three codefendants have since been arrested and charged with murder.

The funeral for Caprio was held Friday in Mountain Christian Church in Joppa. She would have turned 30 on Sunday, The Baltimore Sun reported.

More than 20,000 names of fallen officers have been inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., Taylor said.

“They gave their all, all of them, so that we may live free, and we will never forget them because they showed us just how much we have to lose,” Taylor said of fallen military and law enforcement officers.

He said the community’s presence Monday “helps us ensure our gratitude and respect for the great Americans lasts forever.”

Taylor also noted the separation between military and law enforcement roles.

“It’s one of those many freedoms that we don’t often think about, but it’s actually a critical underpinning of our democracy,” he said.

Taylor and other speakers celebrated the sacrifices members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have made for American freedom, including sacrificing their lives.

“Many of us in Aberdeen have first-hand memories of friends, co-workers, cousins and fathers, sons and daughters lost in service to our great republic,” Mayor Patrick McGrady said. “Let us never forget their sacrifice and every day work toward peace in all our affairs, domestically and internationally.”

Michael E. Bennett, the city’s former mayor who is executive director of the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, said the first Memorial Day — originally called Decoration Day — was observed May 30, 1868. Gen. John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed it be observed that day to honor Americans killed during the Civil War.

The Grand Army of the Republic was a Union Army veterans’ organization. Americans were encouraged to decorate the graves of soliders who died in a war that concluded a few years prior, in 1865, according to the Army Historical Foundation website.

“Today is a very special day, it’s a day of honor and reverence; it is a solemn day,” Bennett said. “Today we must recognize an unfortunate fact of life, our beloved country was formed and is protected by the blood of warriors.”

The ceremony included a performance of the national anthem by the Aberdeen Middle School band, with vocals by Beth Quinn, of the Legion post’ auxiliary unit. The Kenwood High School Air Force Junior ROTC unit and Boy Scout Troop 820 posted and retreated the colors, and the Legion Post 128 Honor Guard performed a rifle salute and taps.

Memorial wreaths were placed, including wreaths for Gold Star families, and those for the past, present and future. Danielle Charles, whose husband, Senior Airman Gilnord Charles, died during training Jan. 14, 2011, participated in the Gold Star wreath laying, along with Taylor.

They embraced after the wreath was laid at the park monument.

Charles’ husband died after he collapsed while training to enter the Baltimore Police Department academy. He was in the Air National Guard, assigned to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., The Baltimore Sun reported at the time.

George Martin, the Legion post assistant chaplain, closed the ceremony with the benediction. He read the famed poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian military doctor John McCrae in 1915 following the death of a close friend in battle.

Martin urged audience members to consider McCrae’s feelings at the loss of “a friend, a comrade in arms.”

“Those of us who have served in uniform often develop a kinship, a brotherhood with our fellow warriors, someone you were close to when the battle raged, someone you could count on, someone who had your back,” Martin said.

He encouraged the veterans at the ceremony to take the holiday to “remember an old buddy from your time in the service,” and then look up that person, call them and arrange a get-together.

“Don’t just promise to get together, make an effort to actually do it, so that you can [meet] and share the memories,” Martin said.

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