NSB Kings Bay Community
2019 Catto ceremony recognizes, awards two Guardsmen
Story by SrA Timi Jones on 03/08/2019
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — The Union League of Philadelphia and the Armed Services Council hosted the Pennsylvania National Guard’s fifth annual Major Octavius V. Catto medal award ceremony in Philadelphia, Feb. 24.
Mayor Jim Kenny, military members and notable, local organizations gathered for a wreath laying at the Catto Monument before recognizing two of the Commonwealth’s Guardsmen for outstanding efforts in the community.
This year’s award recipients were Maj. Luis C. Mendoza, secretary for the general staff of the Joint Force Headquarters at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., and Sgt. 1st Class Brian J. Reighard, company readiness non-commissioned officer of the 252nd engineer company.
According to Pennsylvania Military Regulation 672-1, the Catto medal is awarded to Pennsylvania Guardsmen who exemplify professionalism, a sincere devotion to duty, support and/or volunteerism to the community, and recognizes and encourages respect for individual diversity while fostering a positive work environment in an effort to enhance mission accomplishment.
“By issuing the Catto medal to Soldiers and Airmen who follow the example of excellent military and community service that was set by Maj. Catto, we are doing our part to keep the memory of this important American alive and relevant,” said Brig. Gen. David E. Wood, director of joint staff, Joint Force Headquarters, Pennsylvania National Guard. “The Guard members to whom we award the Catto award are proof that the civic leadership and selfless service that Catto demonstrated are as alive as ever in our communities across the Commonwealth.”
Mendoza enlisted on active duty, served in the 3rd infantry division in Germany and participated in the Gulf War before earning his degree and commissioning into the National Guard, said Wood. After losing his wife to breast cancer in August 2018, Mendoza dedicated his free time to coaching, training and fundraising for the local Lancaster city youth soccer team.
His fundraising supported the Red Card Cancer program which provides funds to the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Stating he is a believer in remaining positive and moving forward, Mendoza recalled his favorite Martin Luther King Jr quote to close out the ceremony, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But, whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
Reighard, encouraged by his disabled sister-in-law and with his wife’s help, established and coached a sled hockey program for physically-restricted individuals in his community, said Wood. Eventually it was established as a U.S. hockey sanctioned organization.
Reighard worked to ensure each player recieved the necessary attention to participate on the same level as non-disabled players. He is also a member of a Veterans of Foreign Wars, providing honors to fallen comrades during military funerals.
“It was a great honor to be recognized for the contributions of the sled hockey team,” said Reighard. “Knowing that less than 10 service members are recognized annually makes the award mean that much more, and makes me feel even greater that what I’ve helped create.
“Major Catto was the epitome of community service, and to compare what I’ve achieved to his leaves me speechless.”
Catto, an African-American leader, civil right martyr and the highest-ranking African-American in the military during the Civil War Era served in the Pa. National Guard. He was shot and killed near his home in Philadelphia for defending the lives of black voters during the 1871 election campaign.