Memorial Day ceremony to honor fallen warriors

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 24, 2017

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The city of Troy will pause to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in a Memorial Day ceremony on the grounds of Troy City Hall May 29.

“We feel it’s very important to honor veterans and those who we have lost,” said Cindy Stewart, director of community affairs for the city of Troy. “Memorial Day weekend is a time for families to get together, the unofficial start of summer. We hope they take an hour out of the weekend to honor the men and women who gave their lives for us and for freedom.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Rocco Ottolino, U.S. Navy, retired, a Gulf War veteran, will be the keynote speaker. He is currently the senior health care equipment planner for Beaumont Health System, conducting research into newer technologies to assist nurses and clinicians. He’s currently working with the chair of urology on devices to gauge levels of pain or to measure levels of improvement in women with pelvic pain.

Ottolino describes himself as a “Navy nuke.” He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1989 through the naval Nuclear Power Program. He attended basic training, Nuclear Field “A” School and the Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida, then was stationed in Connecticut to the Nuclear Power Training Unit Prototype for qualification on an S1C submarine reactor. It was this experience in tight quarters that led to a request for an assignment on an aircraft carrier.

“It was a landlocked sub prototype,” he said of his training. He served for six years.

“I did as much sea time — four years and two months — as you can.”

He said he agreed to speak at the Troy Memorial Day ceremony — although he doesn’t speak in public often — because his time in the military is “such a big part of your identity.”

“The bonds you make with the guys and gals around you under stressful situations … I don’t think anyone is programmed for such stress,” he said. “At 18, you really don’t understand what you’re taking on. You don’t realize what you’re up for until you’re in it. You really get a sense of how great it is to have freedoms. It’s something I really do feel passionately about.”

Ottolino reported for sea duty to the USS Abraham Lincoln in Alameda, California, in May 1991, just two weeks prior to its first Western Pacific cruise. In June, Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, erupted and the USS Lincoln was called into action for a rescue and support mission, Operation Fiery Vigil.

He explained that the volcano left a “big gray mess” from which 20,000 people had to be relocated. “The people were so grateful,” he said.

He received a Humanitarian Service Medal for Operation Fiery Vigil, along with the National Defense Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with Bronze Star, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Star, the Battle Effectiveness Award Ribbon and a Navy Good Conduct Medal.

After six years of military service, Ottolino earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign and began a career in telecommunications at Motorola. He received an engineering award for the development of a proprietary software algorithm. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was part of an engineering team that provided an antenna system to triangulate victims of the terror attack in New York City by tracking cell phone signals. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 led him to become a co-inventor on a patent to minimize critical communication downtime.

Ottoline moved to Hawaii for a yearlong sabbatical of hiking and touring the islands with his future spouse, and then in 2011 he moved to Michigan, and soon after enrolled in the biomedical engineering program at Wayne State University, where he received a Master of Science.

The experience led him to Beaumont.

“Beaumont is really engaged in helping veterans,” he said.

The one-hour Memorial Day event will include music performed by the Heritage Concert Band of Troy and the laying of a Memorial Wreath.

The ceremony will conclude with the raising of the colors and a moment of silence and benediction.

The Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. May 29 at Veterans Memorial Plaza, in front of Troy City Hall, at 500 W. Big Beaver Road.

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