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Gardener discovers live military round in Bel Air

Posted at 5:52 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 17:52:03-04

BEL AIR, Md. — A modern day U.S. Army 1st sergeant, Kelly Thomas recognized the urgency in his wife’s voice when she called out to him from the front of their house in Bel Air on Wednesday night.

“As she was raking through the dirt, she happened to come across an object that she didn’t know what she was looking at,” recalled Thomas.

What he never imagined was that she had unearthed a small, decrepit shell that may date back a century or more.

“That’s something that we shouldn’t be messing with!” Thomas says he told his wife. “So that’s when I looked at it and knew it was some type of military round. I couldn’t identify it at that point.”

Within 24 hours, local, state and federal law enforcers had arrived at the house with experts in vintage military ordnance, which determined it was a World War I-era 37 MKI projectile and that it still posed a real threat to life and limb.

“The bomb squad examined the ordnance and determined that it was still active,” said Sr. Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire. “The fuse was still in place so at that time they rendered safe procedures and actually disposed of the ordnance on the property.”

The Thomas home dates back to 1900 and with its proximity to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, investigators say they’re not really surprised by the discovery, but it certainly got the attention of Thomas and his wife.

“Oh, definitely,” said Thomas. “Had it gone off, it definitely could have been life-threatening, but thank God that nothing happened.”

Now, in addition to the rustic gardening tools that came with the house, like the metal hoe his wife used to unearth the round, Thomas says he plans to buy a modern metal detector for use around the place---just to warn them in case they find any more rounds buried in the yard.