Natick pays tribute to Medal of Honor heroes
April 30, 2008
The U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) conducted a memorialization ceremony April 19 at Soldier Systems Center (Natick), Mass., renaming streets and buildings after 32 Medal of Honor recipients and two distinguished service members (who served before the medal was in existence) affiliated with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, commanding general, SSC, and Program Executive Officer Soldier, said that it was a "special day for the Natick facility and hopefully for Massachusetts as well."
As April 19 is Patriots Day in the state, a day that commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, Brown spoke about the battles of Lexington and Concord and about the Minutemen of those battles becoming our first Army.
After, Brown said he takes "great pride" in how Massachusetts continues to play a role in the lives of Soldiers through the SSC.
He mentioned that he was a military brat and spent a lot of time on various installations. When he arrived at SSC, he noticed something was different, but couldn't put his finger on it. He recalled being on other installations that were named after great leaders, or buildings after great battles, and then joked about how in "true engineer fashion," the buildings at SSC were numbered, 1, 2, 3 and the streets were lettered, A, B, C.
Brown said SSC is the last active Army installation not only in Massachusetts, but in all of New England, so he thought it was fitting that the buildings and streets were renamed for people from the area who made such significant contributions for their country.
He specifically made mention of the recipients whose families were in attendance at the ceremony. Two recipients of the Medal of Honor were also in attendance, Thomas Hudner, and Secretary of Veterans' Affairs for Massachusetts, Thomas Kelley, and Brown said it was "an honor and privilege" to have them at the ceremony.
In closing out his comments, Brown mentioned how the more things change, the more they stay the same. He spoke of how today's generation of Soldiers honor the legacy of those who came before them, and specifically made mention of the Medal of Honor recipients who posthumously received awards for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The next speaker was Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger, U.S. Army Materiel Command, who was representing Gen. Benjamin Griffin.
Mellinger said not one of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Marines gets up thinking he is going to earn an award that day. They are just doing the great things they do for our country everyday, such as protecting liberty and freedom, he said.
He continued by saying that if we reflect back on our country's history, our service members have long demonstrated gallantry in hostile environments and we get to honor some today.
He then asked the families of Medal of Honor recipients Joseph Xavier Grant, Charles MacGillivary, Frederick Murphy and Charles Turner, to stand and be recognized and then Mellinger gave some details about what each were honored for.
"The recognition of these valiant Warfighters serve[s] to be a reminder of the sacrifices and benefits made on our behalf," and these men provided, "selfless service to our nation," Mellinger said.
Secretary of Veterans' Services for Massachusetts, and Medal of Honor recipient, Thomas Kelley spoke next, after he received a standing ovation.
Kelley said it was great to be around Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
After saying he was involved a little in the preparation for the ceremony by helping to track down a few family members, he said he was greatly pleased by the amount that were able to attend.
Kelley then told a story about MacGillivary that wasn't in his citation. "After he was wounded, Germans had surrounded his group and were shouting in English that if they surrendered, the Germans would help them and feed them, and some of the group believed them. MacGillivary said, 'You can't believe a word they say. Keep fighting.' And they did."
Those who have received the Medal of Honor, Kelley said, wear it on behalf of all those who distinguish themselves in battle. Even for the battles and the men that no one was around to see, he continued.
Kelley said he wanted to publicly thank the men and women serving in trouble spots around the world today. "We appreciate your service," he said.
The official party, consisting of Brown, Mellinger, Hudner and Kelley, then unveiled a lithograph of William Carney, the first African-American and first Massachusetts recipient of the Medal of Honor. With the unveiling of the lithograph, all buildings and streets were dedicated.
Families and guests then got a chance to view the plaques commemorating the various recipients. Buildings were chosen based on background of the recipient and the current work being performed. MacGillivary's family felt that the former "Research" building, also known as building three, was the correct choice to honor him.
Brown said the day's ceremony was important to reestablish Natick and Massachusetts as important for the service they provide to the country.
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