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Memorial Day Observance At Otis Memorial Park
by U.S. Air Force Timothy Sandland, 102nd Intelligence Wing
May 29, 2021

The Otis Civilian Advisory Council joined together with the host units of Joint Base Cape Cod in holding a Memorial Day Observance here on May 27, 2021.

Service members from the military commands of Joint Base Cape Cod joined together with the Otis Civilian Advisory Council in observing Memorial Day during a ceremony held at Otis Memorial Park, Joint Base Cape Cod on May 27, 2021. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photos by Timothy Sandland, 102nd Intelligence Wing.)
Service members from the military commands of Joint Base Cape Cod joined together with the Otis Civilian Advisory Council in observing Memorial Day during a ceremony held at Otis Memorial Park, Joint Base Cape Cod on May 27, 2021. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photos by Timothy Sandland, 102nd Intelligence Wing.)

The annual event honors all men and women who have died in military service for the United States, and in particular, those with ties to the Joint Base Cape Cod community.

Organized and hosted by OCAC President, Mrs. Vonnie Jacquard, the occasion drew a gathering of military and civilians from around the installation and from the local community. Featured guests included Brig. Gen. Christopher Faux, Executive Director of JBCC; Col. Sean Riley, commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing; and Col. Matthew Porter, commander of Camp Edwards. Civilian leaders included directors and officers from the OCAC, past presidents of the organization, as well as Mr. Don Cox, president of the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation.

The solemn event was marked by a touching speech by Space Force Lt. Col. Timothy “Skip” Sheehan, commander of the 6th Space Warning Squadron who began by highlighting the kinship shared by all who wear the uniform.

“There is a special and intense connection you make with fellow servicemen and women. We develop close bonds with those around us,” said Sheehan. “We may give each other a hard time, in jest of course, but when it comes time to get the job done, we’re ready and willing to stand shoulder to shoulder against whatever threat we may face.”

During the ceremony, wreaths of flowers were placed by memorial stones encircling the large reflecting pool in the center of the park, representing and honoring those lost in service to the nation.

“To family and friends of a fallen hero, losing a loved one is an enduring grief,” said Lt. Col. Sheehan. “To lose a loved one who heroically risked their life for our country’s freedom leaves a permanent scar built of both pain and pride.”

On May 5, 1868, only three years after the Civil War ended, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, established what is now known as Memorial Day as a day for the nation memorialize those, as he described, “who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Originally called Decoration Day, Logan’s mandate to the GAR, a veterans group of former Union Army soldiers, was to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. He declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30 each year. The common belief is that the end of May was chosen because flowers would be in bloom across the nation at that time.

Logan’s orders to GAR posts stated, “In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery. Government and military officials from Washington, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After the formalities, members of the GAR, accompanied by children orphaned by the war, made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on graves of fallen Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders.” Gen. Logan’s order read.

“Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude.”

The sentiment felt at this year’s observance parallels what was felt at the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington so many years ago. Then, as now, the unique blend of “pain and pride” was the underlying sensation felt by all.

Validating those feelings, Lt. Col. Sheehan said, “On this day, we honor and remember those to whom we may have never had a chance to say goodbye who we honor due to their sacrifice.”

The sacrifice, and the reverence we place on it, forms the honor and pride we feel for those whom we memorialize.

Otis Civilian Advisory Council, Inc., founded in 1947, is an organization of civilian and military members committed to establishing communication and understanding between the military units assigned to Joint Base Cape Cod and their neighbors. In 1969, the OCAC built Otis Memorial Park to honor 50 fallen military personnel that had perished in three different crashes while assigned to Otis Air Force Base and Camp Edwards. It also honors military members who died in service to their nation.

Spanning 22,000 acres, Joint Base Cape Cod is a full-scale, joint-use base that is home to five major military commands that operate and train for missions at home and overseas in a partnership between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and others.

The Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Guardians, and civilian employees of JBCC conduct airborne search and rescue, cyber and traditional intelligence, ballistic missile early warning, cyber engineering and installation, expeditionary medical support as well as training on these and in many other areas that prepare service members for operational assignments overseas as well as here at home, serving and protecting the Commonwealth and the nation.

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