Community observes Memorial Day

By Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com
Speaker Lt. Col. Rachael Ott Chancey and her 3-year-old son Charlie are shown with family members at Greencastle's Memorial Day ceremony. From left: cousins Walt and Jan Cikowski; mother Pam Ott; grandmother Rena Ott; sister Kristen Sutherin; and father Jeff Ott. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT

A number of hands went up at Cedar Hill Cemetery when the speaker at Greencastle's Memorial Day ceremony asked, "Who among us has put on a uniform?" They are all part of the greatest generation, she would explain later in her speech.

Lt. Col. Rachael Ott Chancey said it was humbling to be asked to come home and give the speech where the values instilled in her as a child and teenager playing sports and in the band have carried her throughout her career. A 1998 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School and the daughter of Jeff and Pam Ott, she currently the commander of the 94th Intelligence Squadron at Fort Meade, Maryland, where she leads over 400 airmen.

"Greencastle will always be home, no matter where in the world I am," she said, before paying tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, "including our own Master Sgt. Benjamin Bitner," who was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 23, 2011.

Chancey Ott said she has been often asked during her Air Force career "What does Memorial Day really mean to me?"

Her answer has evolved from a four-day weekend through the service of her grandfathers who served in World War II. Her Pappy talked about his time on Saipan and "it struck me, these boys had no idea if they would be coming home. Standing on the beaches of far off lands, for sometimes years on end, watching their friends be killed and injured by the enemy, but yet they kept on fighting ... To me, they will always be the greatest generation."

People continued to ask her what Memorial Day really means and "after years of serving, it struck me. In August 2010, I lost by first true friend to the enemy," Ott Chancey said.

"That August day in 2010 is when I truly understood what Memorial Day was all about. It is truly to honor all of the men and women who have given their all for out freedom," she said. "Every generation has been asked to give to this great country and every generation will have their stories and memories of lives given to make us better. Every generation at war will be looked at in the history books as the greatest generation ... we will look back in years to come and see how great every generation at war has been."

The ceremony at the cemetery and the parade preceding it were co-sponsored by Frank L. Carbaugh American Legion Post 373 and Harry D. Zeigler VFW Post 6319.

Larry Pittman, American Legion commander, gave opening and closing remarks on a sacred day "with almost visible presence of those who have come before us."

"Good morning, great Americans," said Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. He spoke those who have breathed their last breath and are remembered by a grateful nation.

Pastor Ryan Whisel of First United Methodist Church offered prayers at the service, which also include patriotic music by the Greencastle-Antrim High School Band and participation by local Scouts.