Bataan friends join vets
Published 10:15 pm Saturday, September 14, 2013
Crew members from the USS Bataan continued a tradition earlier this month, visiting Suffolk to attend a breakfast that was started as a way of honoring World War II veterans who had been part of the infamous Bataan Death March or had other postings in the Pacific Theater during that war.
The Bunny’s Breakfast Group now includes veterans of WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan from all branches of military service and gathers monthly at Bunny’s with friends, family and others who wish to join the group to offer support, encouragement and appreciation for their service.
This month he group also honored Dame Mary Sigillo Baracco on her 90th birthday. “Dame Mary” was knighted by the King of Belgium for her WW II service in the underground resistance and as a Nazi prisoner in Europe. She is widely known as a patriotic speaker and as a “Torch Bearer of Freedom.”
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For more than 10 years, the USS Bataan has had a special relationship with the group because of the ship’s honorary connection to the 60,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war forced by the Japanese army to march 80 miles amid physical abuse, torture and murder to a POW camp following their capture at the end of the three-month Battle of Bataan
Suffolk’s William and Sarah Blair have sponsored the breakfast group since it’s inception years ago.
The friendship between the ship’s officers and crew has grown as survivors of the Bataan Death March and Japanese prison camps have shared their experiences over breakfast at Bunny’s and aboard the ship.
On Sept. 4, the captain of the USS Bataan who began the friendship — Rick Snyder, commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group TWO — returned to Bunny’s as a newly minted vice admiral. Accompanying him was retiring Vice Admiral Ann Phillips, also a friend of the group.
In addition to Snyder, former USS Bataan captains Steve Koehler and Eric Ross and present Capt. George Vassilakis joined the gathering.