Seacoast Marines Celebrate 226th Birthday, Heroism of Americans


By Steve Jusseaume,

Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 13, 2001

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Click here for a larger photo.
Ron Wandelich, a former United States Marine Corps lance
corporal, cuts the cake at a celebration for the Marines
226th birthday on Saturday at The Inn of Exeter.

[Steve Jusseaume/Photo]

HAMPTON — More than 200 active and retired Marines, veterans from other branches of the armed services, and guests celebrated the 226th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps at The Inn of Exeter on Saturday, during what is becoming an annual tradition on the Seacoast.

The birthday celebration had previously been held in Rye and in Hampton.

This weekend's party was all the more poignant, coming two months after the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Many of the people present spoke of the events of Sept. 11. Phil Bean and Jerry McConnell, both retired from the USMC and both from Hampton, greeted guests outside the Inn.

One guest, Stephen Bergrab of Ohio, attended the party for the first time at the invitation of Bean. Bergrab works as a consultant at Seabrook Station and has lived on the Seacoast for the past year and a half. "We love this area, though our roots are still in Ohio," said Bergrab. "This is a great affair, and it's especially important; it means more this year because of Sept. 11. Nobody ever thought somebody would fly a plane into a building like what happened in New York. When I served in the Navy (1969- '76) the enemy was clearly identified, but it no longer is. In this new century, in this new war, the enemy is also right in this country. But I'll tell you, this should never happen again. It will never happen again."

Bergrab noted the increased security at the Seabrook power plant, saying the nuclear power station is at NRC level three, the highest security in the industry. "Working inside, it's not too much different. The difference is that security has expanded out to the perimeter of the plant."

McConnell (Marines 1942-1952) spent some time talking with Paul Lindsay (Marines 1968-1971, retired FBI) and George Masten (Marines 1951-1959 and 1961- 1967). Lindsay, of Rye, the author of several books on the military, talked about the events of September.

Asked if U.S. intelligence could have prevented the events of Sept. 11, he wasn't sure. "I can't say. Perhaps there could have been a chance to prevent that, but in the last three decades, military intelligence has been severely hamstrung by politicians," Lindsay said. He also talked of President Bush's speech last week, and how he ended it, calling on all American by saying, 'Let's roll,' a reference to the plane over Pennsylvania that was flown into the ground by civilians.

"You talk about heroes. Those on board that plane that overtook the hijackers. They knew they were dead. They were real heroes," Lindsay said. Masten and McConnell quickly agreed. The highlights of the party were the brief ceremonies, speeches and cutting of the birthday cake. Erstwhile county attorney, and retired Marine, Bill Hart opened the proceedings. "For the 226th time, we come to celebrate something that occurred in Philadelphia in 1775, the birth of the finest; the brightest fighting force the world has ever known," Hart said, commending the courage, honor and commitment of the Marines.

He noted, as is the tradition, the oldest and youngest Marines in attendance; retired Col. John Kelleher, 74, and 26-year-old Jason Bahan, who served from 1994 to 1998.


Ralph Fatello of Hampton spoke with gusto. "We celebrate tonight the accomplishments of the Marine Corps not as exploits, but as contributions to the greater good," Fatello said. William Carroll (Marines 1942- 1946) of Salisbury, Mass., president of the 3,OOO-member Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Association, also spoke briefly. Ron Wanderlich (Marines 1969-1971) cut the birthday cake, provided for the third year by John Tinios of The Galley Hatch in Hampton.

During the evening, the celebrants sipped on drinks and consumed the only item on the menu, "SOS," or "(expletive) on a shingle," as Marines fondly recalled the main daily meal of their tours. Executive Chief Woody Drobia cooked up the dish.

Other visitors included Warren and Joyce White of Hampton, and Stephen O'Neil of Hampton.