KINGSPORT — The Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP) will be planting 75 trees this year to celebrate its 75th anniversary, three of which were dedicated Wednesday morning to three separate groups that deserved special recognition.
HSAAP opened in 1942 during the height of World War II and at its peak was producing 1 million pounds of explosives every day, compared to the current output of about 10 million pounds per year.
One of the three trees was dedicated Wednesday to the people who have lost their lives working in the plant or on the grounds, including Edgar R. Minor (1943), Fraser Brace (1944), Claude Flanary, Helen Harrington and Walter Brown (1945), John Fields (1960), Frank Ward (1975) and Banner Bradley (1987).
Another tree was dedicated to the four HSAAP employees who have more than 50 years of service, including current employees (and brothers) Bob Wilson and Carson Wilson, Bill Brinkley and Rex Fulkerson.
HSAAP Vice President and General Manager Reed McPeak said 75 years is a tremendous milestone for the plant to remain in operation, but even more impressive are the employees who spent 50 or more years working there.
"I would like to say thanks to all of those individuals for their enduring dedication and all the support they have provided to the war-fighter here at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant," McPeak said. "That experience, that magic, that know-how, the stories they bring to work on a daily basis over those years — and some still do — is what really helps carry on the strong traditions that are forged at this plant here at Holston."
Bob Wilson, from Nicklesville, was the only active member of the 50-year-club to attend Wednesday's celebration. He said his brother Carson, who is the only other active member of the 50-year-club, was receiving a medical treatment and couldn't attend.
Bob Wilson started at HSAAP in 1961. He said he didn't expect to be alive 56 years later, much less still working at the plant.
"I've straightened up since then," he joked.
Wilson added, "The company has been good to me. I try to do the best I can for them."
He also has no intention of retiring.
"I'd like to think I have (50 more years), but I doubt the Lord will let me live 50 more years," Wilson said. "But if it's His will, I will."
The third tree was dedicated to all veterans who have worked at HSAAP over the years.
Sgt. Maj. Walton Jones from Joint Munitions Command in Rock Island, Ill., was in attendance to help dedicate the veterans tree.
"Our veterans play an important part in history, so thanks to all of the veterans here for everything that you've done here at Holston," Jones said. "Holston has a great history of supporting veterans. We appreciate everything that you do for veterans."
The three trees dedicated Wednesday included two crabapples and a red bud.
HSAAP Commanders Representative Joseph Kennedy said they chose to plant trees for the 75th year celebration because they wanted something that would be a lasting memorial.
Kennedy added that HSAAP has a good history and a long future ahead of it.
"Actually we're planting 75 trees at the facility, one for each year that we've been in existence," Kennedy said. "Holston is the nation’s only explosive plant, and we have a very good safety record. We're a key member of the National Technical Industrial Base under Army Material Command that supports all of the Department of Defense and our NATO allies. We have a very good research and development group. We're continually developing new formulations for future explosives. We're concentrating on sensitive munitions so that they're easier and safer to handle for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines out there."