Philbrick Children's Park Dedication

By Liz Premo

Atlantic News, Thursday, June 20, 2002

Dyana Lassonde, at left, with Don Philbrick, father of Steven at conclusion of unveiling of plaque. In left background is WHS MCJROTC and on right is (l. to r.) Dan Nersesian, Commander Ralph G. Fatello & Col. Paul F. Lessard, Ret. USMC. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON - More than 60 people gathered along a small stretch of Reddington Landing in Hampton for the June 14 dedication of Philbrick Children's Park. The park is named in memory of Pvt./E1 Steven Jay Philbrick, a Hampton resident who was killed in action in Vietnam on June 6, 1969, at the tender age of 19.

Many who were there on Friday afternoon would agree that it was quite appropriate that a children's play park would be dedicated to honor someone who was referred to during the ceremony as "a typical kid."

A joint effort by American Legion Post #35 Chaplain John Holman, Marine Corps Veteran Colonel Paul Lessard, and Hampton Parks & Recreation Director Dyana Lassonde, the ceremony was the culmination of more than a year's planning that earnestly began to fall into place over the last five months.

Present for the dedication of the park, marked with a bronze plaque upon a polished granite stone, were several members of Steven Philbrick's family, including his father Don and his brother Jeff. Hampton Town Manager James Barrington, and Hampton resident Dan Nersesian joined Lassonde and Lessard in offering their personal comments.

"I am proud to stand here to honor Steven J. Philbrick, a veteran of the Vietnam War who gave his life defending our great country," Lassonde began. She went on to tell how Philbrick, a lifelong resident of Locke Road in Hampton since his birth in 1949, graduated from Winnacunnet High School, where he was a member of the track team and was a football tri-captain. Shortly after graduation, he joined the Marine Corps. "He began his tour of duty on February 14, 1969," said Lassonde, "and was killed in action in June of the same year."

Lassonde concluded her presentation by saying, "Steven was a special man who was a big part of Hampton. It is an honor to remember all of our veterans and to especially remember Steven Philbrick through the name of this children's park after him."

Barrington, who lives near the newly-named park, spoke next. "We appreciate the sacrifices [like Steven's] that have been made for our country and our freedom," he said. American Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello, a Vietnam War veteran, then observed that despite the seriousness of that era, "We were Marines but we were young Marines" who "laughed and joked because we were kids." He called Philbrick Children's Park "a park for kids - a park named after a kid" and said that "as hard as it was to lose Steven ... put your mind at ease knowing he was a typical kid."

Fatello told those assembled that when kids look at the plaque and ask, "Who was Steven Philbrick?" they can be told with utmost certainty that Steven was "a brave Marine; a hero who fought and died in a war so we could all be free." Steven's "job as a machine gunman … in the trenches" was compared to the linesman position in football, and it was disclosed that he was involved in the most successful military maneuver [Operation Dewey Canyon] in the 10 years that the US was involved in the Vietnam War.

Following a brief emotional address by Col. Lessard ("This is Steve's place" he said at one point), Dan Nersesian offered his memories of when he was a young boy who looked up to his older brother Bob and his brother's friends - Pat Hogan and Steven Philbrick.

"I want to be like those guys," Nersesian remembers thinking at the time. The trio went into the military after graduation; Pat was wounded in a firefight in early 1969, Steven was killed four months later; and Bob went on to serve 22 years in the Marine Corps, retiring at the rank of captain and for decades suffering the effects of survivor's guilt.

"Life is short, life is fleeting, and life moves on," Nersesian reflected philosophically. He also noted that dedicating the park in Steven's memory is "a great thing we do for the children today."

Steven's brother Jeff then spoke on behalf of the Philbrick family. "I extend our thanks to all of the people involved with the honoring of the memory of Steven today," he said. "John F. Kennedy once said that 'A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors.' Steven was a loving son and a good brother. In honoring him today it is our hope that Steven will be remembered in death for what he was in life."

Then, as everyone present looked on, Steven's father Don stepped forward and, along with Lassonde, lifted off a length of black fabric that shrouded the memorial plaque. "What can I say, really?" said the elder Philbrick immediately after the unveiling, obviously moved by the occasion. Then, searching for the words to express his feelings, he summed it all up by simply saying, "I'm very proud, of course."

"It's a very good thing we're doing here today," said Col. Lessard before the ceremony came to its conclusion. "We will carry on this park for Steven, believe me."

Philbrick Children's Park Dedication

Friday, "Flag Day", June 14, 2002, @ 2:00 p.m.

Programme and Remarks

Reddington Landing, Hampton, N.H.

October 4, 1949 - June 6, 1969

PRESENTATION OF COLORS -- Winnacunnet High School Jr R 0 T C
Mr. John M. Holman, Introductions of Guest Speakers
Ms. Dyana Lassonde, Parks & Recreation Director
Mr. James Barrington, Hampton Town Manager
Mr. Ralph G. Fatello, Commander, Hamptons' Legion Post #35
Colonel Paul F. Lessard, Ret., USMC
Mr. Dan Nersesian, whose brother was schoolmate of Steven
Mr. Jeff Philbrick, brother of Steven
Ms. Dyana Lassonde & Mr. Don Philbrick, father of Steven
RETIREMENT OF THE COLORS: Winnacunnet High School Jr R 0 T C

In Memory of

Philbrick Children's Park Dedication:

Remarks by John M. Holman, M.C.

Good afternoon ladies, gentlemen, children and distinguished guests. Welcome to the dedication of the Philbrick Children's Park in honor of Steven Jay Philbrick.

Steven Jay Philbrick was born on October 4, 1949, graduated from Winnacunnet High School in 1968, joined the United States Marine Corps. while in Hampton, NH. He began a tour of duty on February 14, 1969. On June 6, 1969, at the age of 19, Steven was killed in action in the service of our country in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Steven is honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC on Panel 23W, Row 91.

I want to thank the Winnacunnet High School Marine Corps ROTC Color Guard for their participation today in paying tribute to the memory of Steven. A special thanks goes to Dyana Lassonde and Paul Lessard for their expertise and assistance in bringing this dedication to a conclusion.

Our first speaker of the afternoon is Ms. Dyana Lassonde, Hampton Parks & Recreation Director.

Our next speaker of the afternoon is Mr. James Barrington, Hampton Town Manager.

Mr. Ralph G. Fatello, Commander, Hamptons' American Legion Post 35.

Colonel Paul Lessard, Ret., USMC.

Mr. Dan Nersesian, whose brother Robert was a schoolmate of Steven.

And last, but by no means least, Mr. Jeff Philbrick, brother of Steven.

The unveiling of the Memorial Plaque will now be performed by Ms. Dyana Lassonde and Mr. Don Philbrick, father of Steven.

This concludes our program this afternoon. The MCJROTC will now retire the colors. Thank you all for coming today to pay homage to Steven.

Parks & Recreation Director Dyana Lassonde at the microphone.

Steven Philbrick Memorial Ceremony

Remarks By Dyana Lassonde, Hampton Parks & Recreation Director

Good Afternoon everyone. I am proud to stand here to honor Steven J Philbrick, a veteran of the Vietnam War who gave his life defending our great country.

Stephen was born in 1949 and lived here all his life at 20 Locke Rd. until he graduated from Winnacunnet High School in 1968 and left to become a serviceman with the United States Marine Corp. He began his tour of duty on February 14, 1969 and was killed in action in June of the same year.

As you can see, Steven was taken in the beginning of his life. He was one of seven children and was part of a very close family. The family may be all grown up but all still live close. Even if they don't reside right here in Hampton — Hampton is still their home.

In Stevens short life he still accomplished much. Steven was very active as an athlete. He was active in sports all his life and was a member of the Winnacunnet High School Track Team as well as being one of the the Captains of the Winnacunnet Warriors Football Team. He also worked for the Town during his summer vacations for the Department of Public Works.

As you can see, Steven was a special man who was a big part of Hampton. It is an honor to remember all of our veterans and to especially remember Steven Philbrick through the naming of this children's playground after him.

Post Commander Ralph G. Fatello at the microphone.

Philbrick Children's Park Dedication.

Remarks By Ralph G. Fatello

"A Kid From Hampton"

Thank you and Good Afternoon, honored guests, fellow Veterans, Marines, family and friends of Steven J. Philbrick. Thank you all for coming out today to pay tribute to Steven.

I did not know Steven. But I knew kids like him. 18 and I 9yr old Marines. Kids, fresh out of high school who enlisted in the Corps. I say kids, because that's what we were. Many of you here today I'm sure can agree with me.

Col. Lessard has many times spoken of one such kid who served under him in Vietnam. His picture hangs on the wall in his living room. My good friend SSgt George Masten has spoken of the kids he served with -- 18 and 19 yr old kids.

No, I did not know Steven personally, but I believe I know enough about the kind of kid he was, the kind of Marine he was. If Steven was anything like the kids in my platoon, he had a sense of humor. Those of us who served in the field know what I'm talking about. We were Marines, but we were young Marines. We laughed and joked in spite of the harsh conditions we lived under. That's what kids do.

We laughed. I was telling George the other day, if I look at my old photo album, most of the pictures of me and my friends are of us smiling. We were smiling Grunts. Whether we were in the field, or back in the rear with the gear. We were smiling. It's important for you to know, that as hard as it was to lose Steven and to think of how awful it was in Vietnam, put your minds at ease in the knowledge that Steven was a typical 19 year old kid. He and his buddies made the best of the situation they were in.

That irony does not escape me, nor I'm sure does it escape any of you today. We are here dedicating a Children's Park in Steven's name. A park for kids. A park named after a kid.

Now maybe, maybe Steven gave his life that day so that one of his fellow Marines could go home. Or "Back to The World" as we were fond of saying. It's not hard to imagine, that some of Steven's friends went on to get married and raise children of their own. And it's not hard to imagine, that come every June 6th, these Marines, these now middle aged men, remind their children about that day. About Steven and the other Marines who lost their lives along the Da Krong Valley. Maybe they talk about the "Kid from Hampton New Hampshire" who carried the heavy M 60 Machine Gun. And how brave he was during that intense 12 hour battle.

When the call came "GUNS UP!" Steven who carried the M-60, The Gun, undoubtedly rushed forward. His MOS was 0331. Machine Gunner. I know Steven played football at Winnacunnet. The captain of his team. If there's any comparison to football, it's that Steven's job as a Machine Gunner in Hotel CO was in the trenches. In other words, a Linesman. They won the battle that day. Breaking through the enemy's defensive line.

It's important to know, because many do not. That Steven was also involved in the most successful Marine Corps operation in the entire 10 year war in Vietnam. Operation Dewey Canyon. It's in the Marine Corps history books.

When Steven's comrades speak of him, it's not hard to imagine that they tell their children that Steven was a "Good Kid".

And it's not hard to imagine, that someday, many years from now. Some child, some kid, will be playing here at this park and they will stop to read this plaque with Steven's name on it. And they might look up at their parents and ask.

"Who was Steven J. Philbrick?" Who was Steven Philbrick? "Steven ... was a kid from Hampton!"

Philbrick Children's Park

Remembrances of Steve Philbrick

Remarks By Daniel A. Nersesian, Chief Warrant Officer, US Army (Retired)

Steve, my brother Bob, Pat Hogan, and one more person who's name I forget, were all buddies in 1967 and 68.

We had just moved back from Texas where my dad was stationed in the Air Force -- he was then transferred to Vietnam and we returned to Hampton in 1967. My dad retired from the Air Force having served 28 years with service in W.W.II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Steve and Bobby were on the football team together at Winnacunnet and were quite the "BMOC" and full of themselves as we all were at that age -- I remember Bob and Steve at the house and knew I wanted to be just like my older brother when I grew up -- he was 6 years older than me.

Nearing graduation from WHS the boys decided to join the service -- my mother wrote my father a letter stating their intentions -- he of course wrote back and said the service is a noble profession; however, do not let them join the Marines -- of course boys and their relationships with their fathers mandated that this is exactly what they should do -- so they enlisted in the Marines -- which of course led my mother to write another letter to my dad which now prompted a phone call home from my father in Vietnam -- quite unheard of in that day telling them of their poor decision -- I'll leave the flavored language out of the written text.

Well off to basic training they went -- upon graduation Bob received the outstanding Marine award which included a new set of "Blues", promotion to PFC, and an assignment to be an embassy guard at a location of his choice -- this of course thrilled and excited my parents until on graduation day it was announced Bob had decided to go to Vietnam with his fellow Marines.

Steve as we know was mortally wounded in combat, Pat and the other fellow were wounded in action and sent home, and Bob returned home two years later a decorated young marine. He continued to serve in Vietnam, as he would later tell me, because he was full of guilt for being untouched and decorated and because of what happened to his buddies.

When Bobby returned to Hampton from Vietnam the first place he went was to see Mrs. Philbrick. He offered his condolences and they had a short conversation at the door -- I will tell you in person but not on paper what was said (don't mean to sound dramatic but it is very sad).

Bob would spend 22 years in the Marines and eventually retire as a Captain. He was a great guy, full of life, and very successful upon his retirement. But he maintained the guilt and troubled feelings and in 1999 would take his own life.

I still think of them all on occasion and a day doesn't go by that I don't think of my brother -- on memorial day and veterans day I'll take a moment and go to the court house in Hampton where in front is the monument with the names of all the folks from Hampton who served in the military during Korea and Vietnam. I like to just take a moment to look at the names and a flood of memories fill my mind. I'm saddened to see the names with stars (some of them I knew) -- but then I'm very proud to see my name along with my two brothers, and my father for having served in the military during the Vietnam war.

Years later I asked my brother about his time in Vietnam and he would never discuss it -- only that Steve had served honorably and with distinction and that they had fun during their short time together. Sorry to be so lengthy -- hope this gives you some background info that you may find useful -- I feel like Paul Harvey with "the rest of the story".

Daniel A. Nersesian
Chief Warrant Officer
US Army (Retired)

Dedication of Philbrick Children's Park

Remarks By Paul E. Lessard, Col., USMC

Pvt. Steven Philbrick enlisted in the Corps from our town upon graduation from Winnacunnet High School. I did not know Steve personally, but I can say he was a leader. He was Tri-Co-Captain of the WHS Football team and a Machine Gunner in the Corps. Both takes a lot of courage.

When I was asked if I thought naming a playground after him (it was a good idea), at first I said no. But the next day, I drove down to the children's playground and thought differently -- Why? -- Because the place had about 6 children playing there accompanied by their mothers. Right then and there, I saw this as Steve's Place -- being with the young people.

As I said earlier, Steve had a lot of coverage. In 1969 when he joined up, there were a lot of people against the war and it wasn't popular. Steve could have taken the easy way out. But he didn't. "He became one of us" ... a Marine. The 9th Marine Regiment was and is a proud outfit and he served them well. I retired in 1986 and came home to Hampton and worked with John Holman to insure all our men who gave their lives so others could be free, were recognized in some way. After 33 years, Steve is being recognized and this is Steve's ground.

Thank you all for coming today and God Bless America and "Semper Fi." We will take care of our Brother Steve's Place.

[See also: Steven Jay Philbrick;
and Children's Park Dedicated To Hampton Man Killed In Vietnam;
and Philbrick Children's Park To Be Dedicated]