Two Pa. National Guardsmen receive Catto Medal

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum
  • 111th FW Public Affairs
       Two servicemen with the Pa. National Guard were recognized on Sat. Feb. 23 at the Union League in Philadelphia during the second annual Major Octavius V. Catto ceremony for their contributions toward citizenship, volunteerism and commitment to duty.
       Army Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Facer, Sr., readiness non-commissioned officer, Bravo Company, 628th Aviation Support Battalion, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Watson, recruiter with the 111th Fighter Wing, Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa. and were the recipients of this year's award.
       Facer, having served in three branches of the military, began his career in 1985 with the Navy. In 1990 he enlisted in the Pa. Air National Guard then transferred to the Pa. Army National Guard in 2000, where he has been since. Facer has pursued a broadening of his professional development courses over his Army career to include small arms/range operations, small arms simulation course and small arms master gunner.
       Facer's community service includes serving more than 20 years in the Mount Carmel volunteer fire department, of which he spent two years in the lieutenant capacity. He also is active in his local Elks Club in a lead capacity, promoting community activities such as sponsoring parades and visits to elderly veterans in his area.
       Watson, as well, has a multi-service background having enlisted with the U.S. Marines as an infantryman in 2001 where he deployed on three occasions to Iraq conducting counter-insurgency operations. Watson joined the Pa. Air National Guard in 2006, initially in the firefighting career field and has since transferred to be a recruiter with the 111th Fighter Wing.
       Working with a local Civil Air Patrol squadron, Watson had organized a cadet orientation program and instructed cadets in physical fitness and land navigation at the Horsham Air Guard Station. He also devotes time to the local Boy Scout troop as an active Eagle Scout leader providing mentorship and guidance to the members. 
       "I'm so humbled and surprised by my selection to receive this award," said Watson.
       The Major Octavius V. Catto Medal, commemorating a martyred Civil War era Guardsmen from Philadelphia, was re-established two-years ago to recognize Pa. National Guardsmen for their public service and community support.
       Catto, an African-American major serving as the inspector general with 5th Brigade in the Army Guard here, was assassinated on the streets of Center City Philadelphia in 1871 during elections by political opponents to the African-American's right to vote. 
       Catto was called to active duty to quell an uprising resulting from the opposition and violence to thwart the black vote. While heading home to prepare himself and others, he was shot dead near his house.
       The funeral that followed would be the largest gathering for a public funeral since the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He had been remembered as a philosopher, educator and activist, yet still his grave marker carries "The Forgotten Hero" engraving.
       "It is no coincidence that the Catto remembrance ceremony happens in February," speaking at an earlier event said Dr. Anthony (Andy) Waskie, professor and historian at Temple University in Philadelphia. "It comes at the tail-end of black history month and closely marks Catto's birthdate."
       The earlier event was held at 6th and Lombard streets at the Starr Garden Recreation Center. Community leadership such as Philadelphia's mayor, Michael A. Nutter and Fire Commissioner, Lloyd Ayers were in attendance to pay their respects during a wreath-laying ceremony. The event was sponsored by, among others, the O.V. Catto Society, the General Meade Society of Philadelphia and the 3rd U.S. Colored Troops military unit. 
       "I find it so amazing that a man brought down at only 32-years-old could manage to do so much in such little time," said keynote speaker, Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Hreso, acting Mission Support Group commander of the 111th Fighter Wing as he spoke to the tightly-packed crowd of nearly 100 about the leadership examples set forth by Catto and his father. "An activist for equality, a professor and dean, of what is now Cheyney University, and from what I hear, quite a baseball shortstop."
       Army Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, the adjutant general for Pennsylvania presided over the official awards presentation hosted by the Union League of Philadelphia.
       These two members represent the best of the 1 percent, said Craig talking about the military membership population of the U.S.

       The award namesake, Octavius V. Catto, was born in Charleston, S.C. in 1839, and moved to Philadelphia in 1848. He was the son of William Catto, a minister and an anti-slavery activist, who would later join up with Frederick Douglass, Henry Garnet, Robert Purvis, and Charles Redmond.
       Octavius became an advocate for the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed freedom to vote regardless of race, color, or previous servitude status. He was invited to join the Pennsylvania National Guard's 5th Brigade, promoted to the rank of Major, and assigned as the brigade's Inspector General.
       During a controversial election day in Oct. 1871, while walking through a disputed district to his home to retrieve his uniform and equipment, Catto was accosted by a hired assassin and known associate of the political opposition. He was shot first in the back, then shot again at close range. He fell dead a few steps from his home on South Street.