Semper Fi

True to tradition, members of the local Band of Brothers came together this week to celebrate the 238th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps and are “always faithful” to do so.

That happened at Lancelot’s Restaurant in Wintersville on Wednesday, the day of the week the Band of Brothers get together anyway for breakfast and camaraderie, usually around 9 a.m.

The Band of Brothers began as a group of veterans that originally consisted of all Marines but has since expanded to include other veterans representing other branches of the military.

The celebration included a cake decorated with the Marine emblem and Semper Fi (“Always Faithful”) logo. Being the second eldest in attendance at 88, Frank Vallera, got the cake-cutting honors.

Vallera presented the first piece of cake to the oldest veteran in attendance – Len Masci, 90, of Wintersville – and the second piece to the youngest Marine in attendance, in this case 32-year-old Keith Price of the Pleasant Hill/Steubenville area.

The symbolism behind this is that the older Marine is passing down his knowledge to the younger one.

Marine veteran Ron Millanti served as master of ceremonies, explaining that the actual birthday is Nov. 10, which was Sunday, ironically the day the Band of Brothers lost one of its peers with the passing of Leonard Ellis, who was 91. Ellis served as a corporal in the 4th U.S. Marine Corps Division during World War II in Iwo Jima, receiving a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

At last year’s celebration, it was Ellis who was presented the first piece of Marine birthday cake.

Ellis’ name was one of several read by Millanti, acknowledging Marine brothers who have passed away. The list also included Russ Hathaway, Paul Thomas, Ray Simmons, Jules Sferrella, Salvatore Pate, Jim McClain, Jock Dickenson, Howard Clutter, Abe Bryan and Donald Bradley. To them, the group shared in a toast.

“This group started with about five guys, and some of them have passed away and a couple of the originals are still here,” Millanti said.

The Band of Brothers is a diversified group with veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, according to Millanti, who said the weekly get-togethers continue to foster camaraderie.

“We sit around and talk, and it’s nice,” he said.

The Wednesday gathering included a “support system” presence as spouses and others were on hand, including, second photo from bottom, clockwise, from left, Johnnie Masci, Marilyn McLaughlin, Berna Kopras, Jeannette Zook, Elizabeth Shipe, Marsha Phillipson, Shirley Ohalek and Joanne Pestian.

Marines who assembled for a group photo before the ceremony were, top left, clockwise, from left, Bob Phillipson, Vee Jay Beadling, Bill Harrah, Charlie Green, Keith Price, George Wilson, Don McLaughlin, Ron Millanti, Bill Shipe, Frank Vallera, Lucian Zook and John Cucarese, and back, George Maine, Frank Bengier, Len Masci and Kenny Liggett.

Thanks to the generosity of someone, the group all ate for free. Sweet.

To the Marines and all veterans, I offer my thanks and appreciation for their service.