Continue to Build OCS Memorial Walk
The United States Army
Officer Candidate Schools
General George C. Marshall, from his letter to the first OCS class-1941
The OCS Alumni Association was founded to serve and honor the OCS program and its graduates. The Association fosters fellowship, highlights the history of OCS, and memorializes that history. One example of this is the construction of the Memorial Walk, a series of bricks, pavers, and monuments centered around a brass cannon on the grounds of the OCS battalion.
Through the years, various classes donated plaques to commemorate their legacy. When the OCS battalion moved several years ago from its location near the 250-foot jump towers, the monuments were moved and placed in the OCS battalion area. However, there was no cohesion among the memorials and no way for individuals to memorialize their achievements as an OCS graduate.
Thus, the idea of the OCS Memorial Walk was born.
The Memorial Walk consists of a long path bordered by bricks, pavers, and monuments on both sides. The brass cannon flanks the center of the path on one side. The Memorial Walk is a short distance from the entrance to the OCS battalion area, where the OCS arches stand now.
The center of the Memorial Walk is the cannon. In this area, known as the Cannon Block, there are pavers to commemorate the 49 Medal of Honor OCS recipients and other distinguished OCS graduates. There are several blocks with the inscribed names of members of the OCS Hall of Fame. There are blocks dedicated to the some of the divisions and regiments that OCS graduates have served. There are the previous class monuments and additional ones are being purchased to honor a class’s legacy and its members. There are numerous individual bricks and pavers for both graduates and cadre to memorialize their service to our Army.
Just as the OCS Alumni Association represents all OCS graduates regardless of school location, the Memorial Walk does not just honor graduates of the Fort Benning OCS but all officer candidate schools.
The Memorial Walk was formally dedicated at the May reunion. There is now a cohesive place for graduates and current candidates to remember the OCS history and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed for their nation.
The man who took this vision and made it a reality is retired Col. Frank Harman, current President/CEO of the OCS Alumni Association. Those who heard his speech at the dedication in May know this is a labor of love for Frank.
Glimpses of the Memorial Walk
Retired Col. Frank Harman speaking at the dedication of the Memorial Walk.
Former Sen. Dole meets retired colonels John Ionoff, OCS Alumni Association President (left) and Frank Harman, OCSAA Vice President for Administration and the program manager for the Memorial Walk (middle) in April.
Interview with Frank Harman
First, it matters that cadre, candidates, and future graduates understand the OCS history and its impact on the Army and the nation. I want them to be proud of being a Soldier and an OCS-trained officer or part of the OCS cadre. I want them to know they are part of a great tradition, they represent that tradition, and they individually have the potential for valorous leadership, meritorious service, and outstanding public service.
Second, it matters to our graduates. We need a place where we can memorialize our fallen comrades, our mentors, our battle buddies, our units, our Soldiers, and the campaigns, operations, deployments, and exercises in which we have participated. Raised monuments, dedication blocks, as well as group and individual plates, pavers, and bricks are a way to accomplish this.
As long as there is an OCS program, the Memorial Walk project will continue. My objective, as project manager, is in some form or fashion make sure we have represented everything about OCS that has unique significance. That means war eras to put the OCS experience into perspective. That means some form of recognition for branches, units, battlefield heroes, distinguished leaders, Hall of Fame members, cadre, year groups and classes, campaigns, operations, and deployments. But most importantly, every graduate has an opportunity to participate in his or her own way and we have a place where they can do that.
All graduates should buy a brick or paver for themselves and a battle buddy, mentor, or special Soldier. Career officers should buy a paver and take care of someone special, but they should also make sure their class or year group is represented with at least a brick if not something more significant. All the profits from brick and paver sales are rolled back into the walk and that is how we have been able to pay for our landscaper and additional monuments like the OCS Hall of Fame plates, branch bricks, and several dedication blocks. It’s all about capturing our history as OCS graduates.
Have you ever been to West Point? If so, you are awe struck by history and those West Point graduates who have led our Soldiers in battle: Grant, Lee, Pershing, MacArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, Bradley, Gavin, Abrams, Schwarzkopf, and so many more are deified in and around the halls and the plane of West Point. And rightfully so.
Since 1941, during time of war, OCS produced the majority of small unit leaders at the tip of the spear. The majority of combat platoon leaders and company, troop, and battery commanders were OCS graduates. Forty-nine OCS graduates have received the Medal of Honor; twelve graduates served as four-star generals, to include Tommy Franks who led OIF 1; four graduates became U.S. senators and one, Bob Dole, ran for president. The first African American U.S. ambassador is an OCS graduate, as well as former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger and Secretary of the Army John O Marsh. The greatest military operation in U.S. Army history, the D-Day invasion, would not have been possible without the small unit leadership of OCS graduates. Examples include 1st Lt. Jimmie Monteith, Medal of Honor recipient, and Capt. Joe Dawson, Capt. Kimball Richmond, and 1st Lt. Dick Winters Distinguished Service Cross recipients. One of the most courageous examples of leadership in the Korean War occurred when Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Col. Don Faith’s battalion held the northwest flank at the Chosen reservoir allowing the Marines to withdraw under pressure. The most senior officer to die in combat in Vietnam was a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, Maj. Gen. Keith Ware, during Operation Junction City. And we can’t forget the numerous platoon leaders, company commanders, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam advisors, and Special Forces team leaders who met the same fate leading Soldiers in Vietnam. OCS officers served faithfully throughout the Cold War; Army of Excellence; numerous operational deployments including to the Dominican Republic, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo; as well as duty in Europe and Korea. Since September 11, OCS graduates have served and died for their nation during the Global War on Terrorism.
Why didn’t Fort Benning have monuments to celebrate the valor, meritorious military service, and outstanding public service of OCS graduates? I want to fix this.
Become a part of YOUR association!
Fighting 51st Class 6-65 Memorial
The 51st Company, 5th Student Battalion, The School Brigade is unique based on its performance in the Vietnam War. The class started in January 1965 and graduated the following June.
Class 19-69 Memorial
The following is an email to the OCS Alumni Association from Lynn Baker, Class 19-69.Frank Harman has done such a wonderful job working with the Class 19-69 on our monument.