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Letterkenny complex dedicated in memory of fallen hero

June 02, 2010
  • Letterkenny Army Depot Commander Col. Cheri Provancha shows Judy Lightner the memorial that marks the depot's missile facility, which is named in honor of her son, Staff Sgt. Daniel Lightner. Daniel Lightner was killed in Iraq in 2005. Also pictured is Shonda Lightner, Daniel's sister.
By Kate S. Alexander,

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Five years ago, Staff Sgt. Daniel Lightner of Hollidaysburg, Pa., gave his last full measure of devotion during combat in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Letterkenny Army Depot gave the fallen soldier and his family an honor beyond medals and flags when it named the Missile Monitoring and Certification Complex after him.

"It's a fitting tribute to a real hero that this complex is being dedicated in his memory," said Brig. Gen. John Gronski, assistant adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Hailed previously as a "one-stop shop" for the Patriot surface-to-air missile system by past Commander Col. Steven Shapiro, the depot celebrated reaching initial operational capacity Wednesday.

Naming the complex after Lightner bestowed upon him an unmatched honor, said Lt. Gen. James Pillsbury, deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Materiel Command in Alexandria, Va.

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"The very best anti-aircraft missile in the world will be recertified here and to have Daniel's name tied to the very best, the excellence (of this facility) is very good," he said.

The new complex resulted from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, which moved the missile recertification program from Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, to Letterkenny, according to depot documents.

David Putman, director of Theater Readiness Monitoring Directorate, said that if someone told him a year ago that he'd be celebrating the facility being not just operational, but ahead of schedule, he would have laughed and said it was a pipe dream.

Yet on April 28, a month before schedule, the facility turned out its first recertified missile, Letterkenny Commander Col. Cheri Provancha said.

While the depot dedicated the facility to a fallen hero, it recognized other heroes Wednesday.

Reaching a successful opening would not have been possible without the men and women who worked to make the program possible, said Retired Maj. Gen. Joseph "Skip" Garrett of Raytheon Co.

As a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Pennsylvania State Police, Lightner spent most of his life serving his country either home or abroad.

The dedication was very emotional for Lightner's mother, Judy Lightner, and his sisters.

Judy Lightner was at a loss for words after unveiling the memorial marking the facility as the Lightner Missile Complex.

"It is an honor for her, really," said her daughter, Shilo Lightner.

Patriot and Hawk missiles will be recertified at the facility when the full operation relocates no later than September 2011, according to depot documents.

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