PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 28, 2012 — State Sen. Anthony Williams joined the Pennsylvania National Guard last week to honor two guardsmen for their exceptional community support and public service throughout the Commonwealth with the Catto Medal, an award that was just revived this year.
First Sgt. Kevin Bittenbender of Lewisburg, Pa., was recognized for volunteering over 500 hours of his time for various organizations since 2005.
Also honored was Maj. Jonathan Bell, a chaplain in the Pittsburgh-based 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Bell has recently been recognized nationally for his services as a chaplain overseas.
“These two recipients of the Catto Medal epitomize the longstanding service and sacrifice of the thousands of men and women who dedicate their lives to the people of Pennsylvania and the United States,” Williams said. “From Sergeant Bittenbender’s selfless service within the Commonwealth, to Major Bell’s renowned work offering spiritual guidance and comfort when it is most needed, these men deserve our recognition and gratitude.”
The Catto Medal recognizes members of the Pennsylvania National Guard who exemplify professionalism, devotion to duty, and support to the community and encourages individual diversity. It is named in honor of Maj. Octavius Catto, a respected African-American resident of Philadelphia who was murdered while attempting to subdue violence against African Americans in the city seeking to vote on Election Day in 1871.
The first Catto Medal was authorized in 1871 but disappeared from the Commonwealth’s military decoration system until Dec. 6, 2011. Bittenbernder and Bell are the first recipients of this medal since its revival.
“We honor the sacrifices of the past through our service today,” Williams said. “Octavius Catto made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom and franchise for his fellow neighbors and citizens. The men we honor today remind us the values of courage and conviction Catto held, shared and inspired.”
The Pennsylvania National Guard is one of the largest in the country, serving more than 90 communities in 52 counties, and has a reach that spans the globe.
Recognizing the need to honor and assist those who served in the military, Williams has been leading an effort to help unemployed veterans, whose numbers are growing as service men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan. His legislation, Senate Bill 1293, would create a tax credit for businesses that hire a person who has served in the armed forces – including reserve components and the National Guard – and was honorably discharged.
Additionally, the senator’s Resource Guide for Veterans and Their Families provides information detailing a variety of programs and services for vets.