April 28, 2020
Workers’ Memorial Day was established nearly 50 years ago in part to remember those who lost their lives in the performance of their duties. In many respects, it is unfortunate that we even need such a day of remembrance. After all, everyone who goes off to work expects to come home after their shift. But tragically, on occasion something goes drastically wrong and employees fall mortally victim.
Early efforts in commemorating the day sought to focus attention on the working conditions that led to fatalities. The annual memorial date of April 28 was selected because it coincided with the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1971. Though we’re nearly 50 years down the road, the National Safety Council reported that preventable workplace deaths totaled 4,414 in 2017 which was the fourth consecutive year of increases. It’s rather obvious that we have a long way to go to achieve the goal of zero workplace deaths.
2017 was also significant as it was the 100th anniversary of the founding of Aberdeen Proving Ground and its former Edgewood Arsenal. During that yearlong celebration, the Aberdeen Proving Ground Memorial was conceived and developed by the APG Centennial Celebration Association (now the APG Discovery Center). This long overdue memorial was dedicated on May 30, 2017 to recognize the Department of Defense Civilians, Armed Service Members, and Contractors who lost their lives at APG during the course of performing their duties. While many names and exact numbers of those employees have been lost to the annals of history, people who have researched this issue have been able to identify 48 individuals who died I n the performance of their mission. Particularly interesting in 2020 is that another 81 individuals were documented as having died on the installation during the Spanish Flu pandemic during its first year of operation in 1918. All of their sacrifices were recognized in the APG yearbook entitled “The Big Gun” (https://apgdiscovery.com/apg-history/books-videos/). A fitting cometary written in 1918, which is applicable today follows:
In Memoriam . . . . To meet and conquer the foe on the field of battle was denied them. Their lot was to serve far from the land where everlasting glory was won by the lads who offered their all to turn back the savage invader. Yet the served where the roar of the guns was incessant, making these guns very safe for the men who would turn them on the advancing foe. In this same work some of them gave their lives, others were the victims of dread disease; but all died in the service of their country. They answered the call as did the others who served, and for the cause in which they believed they made the supreme sacrice that man can be called upon to make. When the pages of history have been written, when the names of the gallant dead have been inscribed on the tablets of honor and fame, not least among them will be the names of the boys who gave their lives at Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen Proving Ground Memorial is located in Festival Park in the City of Aberdeen, N Parke St, Aberdeen, MD 21001
Family members, friends, colleagues and the interested public are encouraged to visit and pay their respects.