Aboard the USS Blue Ridge
by B. Phillip Webb Jr.
Recently, several Rotarians from the Rotary Club of
Jomtien-Pattaya had the pleasure of joining Admiral Robert F. Willard and
crew aboard the USS Blue Ridge (LCC19) for an evening of cocktails and
personnel stand to attention as they welcome us aboard the USS Blue Ridge.
The USS Blue Ridge is an amphibious command-and-control
ship and the flagship of the famous Seventh Fleet. Its primary focus is to
support a variety of missions with sophisticated communications from a large
suite that allows the Commander and his designated staff to direct U.S.
Naval forces in the region.
The Seventh Fleet’s area of responsibility is the
Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is also comprised of 50- 60 ships, 350
aircraft and over 60,000 Navy and Marine Corp personnel.
huge cake with the flags of Thailand and the US symbolizing cooperation and
The USS Blue Ridge’s homeport is Yokosuka, Japan and
has approximately 950 military personnel on board, mostly Navy, but a small
squadron of Marines are also attached to the ship for security purposes.
Before arriving in Thailand at Chuk Samet Naval Base in
Sattahip, the USS Blue Ridge made a stop in Malaysia.
Webb, (left) stands proudly next to H.E. Daryl Johnson the US Ambassador and
his wife, plus Admiral Robert F. Willard and a US marine officer.
Peter Malhotra, president of the Rotary Club of
Jomtien-Pattaya, Sue K and I chatted with several high-ranking officers and
were equally impressed with all of them. But one particularly stood out
among the rest - Captain Steven J. Romano. I think all would agree he went
that extra mile. He was extremely cordial, hospitable and was eager to tell
us about the USS Blue Ridge and her myriad of duties.
Sonny Alino (right) joined Heidi to celebrate Hansueli Egli’s birthday on
Capt. Romano is from North Virginia, has been in the Navy
for 26 years, is married and has two lovely daughters. He attended William
& Mary University, lettered in Rugby before being recruited by the Navy
and was offered a commission as an officer upon graduation from the Naval
Academy. Incidentally, the rank of Captain is equivalent to the rank of
Colonel (full-bird) in the Army and Marine Corp. From Captain, your next
promotion would be “Rear Admiral” or Brigadier General in the Army or
the Marines. Peter Malhotra said, “He might even come out of retirement
for that position.”
award-winning US Navy band did their part to entertain the guests.
The Captain shared many interesting tidbits of
information with us, mostly Navy jargon, but one thing of interest he
mentioned was that in 1984 (on R&R from Vietnam) he did visit Pattaya
but he couldn’t recall a whole lot. He said he vaguely remembered walking
in South Pattaya in what is now called Walking Street where he saw two very
nice looking ladies and two elephants. We commented, “Those ladies are
probably retired by now, but the elephants may still be around.”
smart looking marines dwarf Sue K.
Captain Romano said, “When we are in an area we try to
interact with the local people,” and gave an example of their recent trip
to Malaysia. “We had over 40 Navy personnel clean and make numerous
repairs at the Salvation Joy Home for the Aged. And then we made a visit to
Shelter 1, a home for neglected children.” He added, “I try to get
involved with as many onshore projects as I can, especially when it comes to
children as I have a soft-spot right here,” and pointed to his heart. He
continued, “The interaction with children helps me cope with the
loneliness and absence away from my own precious children.”
Peter Malhotra was impressed with what the Captain was
saying and responded, “It’s obvious that you care for children very
much, but it’s also very obvious that your love for mankind is also on an
equal level.” Peter then asked the Captain, “Have you ever considered
becoming a Rotarian? You certainly seem to have all the necessary
Capt. Romano replied, “Yes and no.” And then he went
on to clarify. “At the present time, I am married to two beautiful ladies;
one is the US Navy and the other is my beautiful and gracious wife.
Therefore my time is very limited to serve three Masters. But one day I hope
to become a Rotarian, as I consider them to be the Rolls Royce of all civic
organizations. Rotary not only knows what the special needs are in a given
community but they are willing to step forward and do something, rather than
pay ‘lip service’ just to pacify a few local dignitaries.”
The Captain added, “I believe that God has, somehow, in
a spiritual sense of ordination, chosen Rotary to carry the ‘fellowship of
love and peace’ to the entire world. As a Rotarian, the standard of living
is based on the ‘4 Way Test’. 1. Is it the Truth? 2. Is it Fair to all
concerned? 3. Will it build Goodwill and better Friendships? 4. Is it
Beneficial to all concerned? The US Navy’s creed, standard of living and
serving one’s country are: 1. Honor, 2. Courage, 3. Commitment.”
The award-winning Navy band was present in full dress
uniform and thrilled the audience with outstanding renditions of the Thai
National Anthem and the United States National Anthem. Everyone stood at
attention for both.
But when the band started playing the American National
Anthem, it seemed that all the American people in attendance took on a
totally different posture and extended their chest. I, for one, said very
passionately in my mind and in my heart, “Yes, I am an American and damn
proud of it.”
In the end, it was an evening where the “Top Brass”
of the USS Blue Ridge mingled with the common folk and shared some insight
into the workings of the US Navy when they are at sea.
It was a night that I will long remember and one that I
was privileged to be a part of. I’d like to say thank you Peter, and the
US Navy for the opportunity to share a true-life experience.
The cup overflows at Milan Crosse Partners networking dinner
The old adage, ‘the cup runneth over’ did not only
describe the flowing wine at last week’s Milan Crosse partners networking
dinner, held at the Art Caf้, but was very pertinent to the level of
conversation and the current business climate.
savoring the moment as dinner is served, these networking nights are an
increasingly popular avenue to make new business contacts.
Milan Crosse Partners offers marketing and research &
analysis services, public relations; graphic design and event management,
and hold their monthly networking dinner in Pattaya, once again returning to
Art Caf้ for an informal evening.
Vilaisit, Milan Crosse and Alain Durwarder, Kateon Natie, pause from the
conversation for a photo.
Frequent networkers including Jim Howard, in his role
away from rugby chairman, brought along Molly Chan of SCC Dow Chemicals,
Alain Durwarder was also present as part of the Katoen Natie contingent,
Chris Langford, from Laem Chabang container terminals, Les Nyerges, Capital
TV & Pattaya Mail Plus, Steve Quinn and Steve Bennett from Thai Leighton
and George Strampp, Automotive Solutions and ex TRW boss and Noah Shepherd,
regional managing director of Reynolds Polymer Technology to name but a few
were seen telling tales and talking shop.
Stirling, managing partner of Milan Crosse welcomes everyone to the
Joe Stetten and his team at the Art Caf้ ensure the
food was plentiful while Peter Stirling and Paradee Vilaisit made sure the
wine was plentiful.
“Businesses was quite slow during the final six months
of last year, not only for us (Milan Crosse) but also for plenty of other
unrelated businesses, but this year has taken off quite well and we’ve
already exceeded that slow period,” said Peter, talking on the current
Quinn (left) and George Strampp deep in conversation.
However, while the evening was an informal one, business
was on the agenda, and so to was an informal talk by Molly Chan. Molly spoke
of SCC Dow Chemical on the Eastern Seaboard, its global scale, and the
Steve Quinn took the informal aspect literally,
describing Thai Leighton’s construction projects in the ASEAN region,
looking to Vietnam as an upcoming market for their services.
With formalities complete, it was back to the serious
business of enjoying each other’s company, as well as the food and
beverage. Another evening laced with good food and wine, making the event
one of the more enjoyable networking nights here in Pattaya.
The Milan Crosse networking dinners are held on the final
Thursday of the month at the Art Caf้, Naklua Soi 16.
Pattaya gourmands hand over funds to the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya to benefit the aged
The International Gourmet Club of Pattaya showed they
have a heart for the community by handing over 100,000 baht to Past
President Erika Keller and members of the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya to
help in their many community projects and more specifically, the Banglamung
Home for the Aged.
right) presents the donation to PP Erika Keller (4th
left). Witnesses were (l-r) Gusti Steiner, PP Bruno Keller, Willi
Zimmermann, Hansjoerg Lehser, Henny Vermey and Fred1 Schaub, proprietor of
The active Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya, through its
membership, has constantly come to the aid of those in need and was highly
appreciative of the generous donation made at Bruno’s Restaurant.
Corrodi addresses the club before making his generous donation.
Earlier in the week Rotarian Daniel Corrodi made a
presentation of 90,000 baht to the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya, at their
regular Wednesday meeting at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort.
Daniel had spoken to members of his Rotary Club and Lodge
in Switzerland about the needs of the old age home in Pattaya. The
kindhearted Swiss decided to dig deep into their pockets and put this amount
of money together. The funds will be directed at purchasing necessities
required by the residents at the Banglamung Home for the Aged.
Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya marks 17 years of service to the community
The Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya celebrated its 17th
birthday on the 12th of February. Past presidents, members and many invited
guests gathered together to help celebrate this auspicious occasion.
past and present join in to cut the anniversary cake. (l-r) Bruno Keller,
Peter Malhotra, Premprecha Dibbayawan, Erika Keller, John Richards, Dennis
Stark, Kees Peprkamp and Nic Demet.
President Peter Malhotra, one of the two remaining
charter members of the club and serving his second term as president, spoke
of the club’s history, which included fond memories of members who have
past on, the achievements of others and of the Rotary Club in general,
upholding Rotary’s noble motto of ‘Service above self.’
Phil Webb, Max Rommel, Geoff Paston, Chris Gibbins and PP John Richards
enjoying the proceedings.
In his message to the members and guests he said, “The
12th of February 2004 marks the 17th anniversary of the Rotary Club of
Jomtien-Pattaya. This is a day that we should not only celebrate, but we
should also spare a thought for some of the great Rotarians who helped form
this club and carved out the path of service which we follow faithfully to
Davies enjoying a good laugh with PP Dennis Stark.
“The story goes back a little further to before our
birth. A handful of Rotarians, members of the Rotary Club of Pattaya, had a
common vision. They saw that Pattaya was ready for an English-speaking club.
They knew that our community was fast growing into an international
community and there would be a huge influx of people who had or would have
the same vision as Rotarians, ‘seeking an opportunity to serve.’
of the Interact Club of Banglamung School came to wish their patrons a Happy
“Some of this group included PP Hans Zurfluh, PP Alois
X Fassbind, Gene Farley, Hank Whittaker, Dang Harbhajan and Bill Burbridge.
Having decided to form a new Rotary Club they requested the permission of
the district who appointed Rtn Nitti Mayer as the special representative of
the District Governor to guide and help us charter our club. The Rotary Club
of Bangkok South became our sponsor club.
“Now Pattaya was a totally new ‘market’ so to
speak, therefore to find a group of English speaking residents of Pattaya
who would understand and join an organization that they had little or no
knowledge of, was a challenge in itself.
“I was invited to a preliminary meeting of about 40
people who gathered to listen to DG Prapan Hutasingh talk to us about the
Rotary movement. Khun Prapan walked around the room asking each individual
for the reason they wanted to join Rotary. As he moved from person to
person, I racked my brain for an answer. ‘What is my motive to join
Rotary?’ When it was my turn I said, ‘I’m not really sure, but from
what I hear, I can do some good for the community and help those who need
“A few more meetings were held, but the group dwindled
with every session until there were only a handful of us left, which
persevered and came back to learn more about Rotary. Finally, Rotary
International approved all the applications and the Rotary Club of
Jomtien-Pattaya received its charter on the 12th day of February 1987.
“The story of our club is a long and honourable one,
but not without our growing pains. Like any other organization we had our
ups and downs, yet even today we tend to let down our guard and allow our
weaknesses to creep through. We are but only human!
“There have been many noteworthy Rotarians in our club
that have kept us upright in our undertakings and have brought us much
honour. I have fond memories of fellow Rotarians such as Hans Zurfluh, Gene
Farley, Louis Fassbind, Dick Snell, Larry Ferguson, Carl Boehlen, PP Colin
Ritchie and David Jeater, who are no longer with us. Others, such as Bill
Burbridge, Hank Whittaker, PP Sutham Phanthusak, PP Andre Comeau, Lindsey
Kean, Phillipe Guenat, Philipp Delaloye, Rattana Yothawong, Andre
Machielsen, Dang Harbhajan, Marc Orts, Dr. Belen Phangmuangdee, Baldev
Singh, Suchada Inthana, Pramjit Singh, Dr. Jan von Koss and Dr. Iain
Corness, are no longer members but are still our very close friends.
“Two past presidents have left our club and joined
other clubs, namely PP Niels Colov to the Pattaya Club and PP Michael Vogt
has joined the Rotary Club of Chiangmai West. Peter Thorand went on to
become Charter President of the Rotary Club of Taksin-Pattaya. But our
greatest pride and joy is our very own Charter member Premprecha Dibbayawan,
twice the president of our club and then elected and served as District
Governor for Rotary International District 3340 in the year 2000-01.
“We must also not neglect to honour our past presidents
who are still with us. So many of you have dedicated so much to keep our
club’s flag flying high with pride. I could mention many more names, but
where do I stop? The history of our club is full of legendary Rotarians.
“This is the opportune time and moment to re-commit
ourselves to Rotary. Our chance to do our duty. Our chance to carry the
torch of Rotary and keep the fires of service burning bright, for this and
for many generations of Rotarians to come. There are so many good and
upstanding people out there who are like you and me. They are waiting to be
recognized, waiting to be invited in, waiting to be given an opportunity to
“Open your hearts to them. Give them Rotary. Make this
a most meaningful 17th birthday ever, for our Rotary Club, for our community
and for all humankind.”
Makha Bucha Day today, March 5
If you’re wondering why banks and government offices
are closed today, it is because this year, the Makha Bucha Day holiday falls
on Friday, March 5.
Religious ceremonies are being held at temples such as
Wat Yarnsangwararm, Wat Sawangfa in North Pattaya, Wat Chaimongkol in South
Pattaya and many others throughout the province and the country.
This holy day commemorates the miraculous event when
1,250 disciples of the Buddha, Gautama Sakayamuni, traveled to meet with the
Buddha with no prearranged agreement, at Weluwan Mahawiharn Temple in the
area of Rachakhryha, India.
Worshipping or ‘Bucha’ occurs in the third month or
‘Makha’, identified in the middle of the 3rd lunar month. This year the
holy day fell on March 5.
The day gained official recognition in Thailand during
the reign of Rama IV and became a nationally observed day with all
government institutions closing down and observing the rituals associated
with Buddhist commandments.
Devout followers participate in morning ceremonies,
making merit and listening to sermons at local temples, and later in the
evening return to the temple to perform the “wien thien ceremony” -
walking three circuits around sacred grounds, paying homage to the “Triple
Gem” or the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The day is observed all over
Other countries where the Buddhist faith is predominant
and where Makha Bucha Day is officially observed as a national day include
Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and India. Other countries with
populations observing the day but in limited numbers include China, Korea
Disseminating the Buddha’s teachings and the journey to
meet with the Buddha on the 15th night of the 3rd lunar month are part of
the historical events that include the sermons and truths spoken by the
Having good intentions, not harming others, avoiding evil
actions and making the heart and mind pure in thought were among the truths
spoken by the Buddha. Additionally, other truths spoken by the Buddha
cautioned individual restraint in all that attracts one’s attention, to
include desiring possessions belonging to others, and exploiting others for
Before departing, the Buddha also referred to the
people’s interest in making merit, gaining self-esteem and a comfortable
reassurance that moral integrity exists. More importantly, having faith in
the “Triple Gem” (Phraratanatrai) was illustrated by emphasizing the
importance of avoiding drunken, irresponsible and immoral behavior, and
maintaining focus on supporting loved ones while being content in one’s
existence with friends and without selfish greed.
Upon hearing the words spoken by Buddha many can easily
recognize the inherent truth contained therein but adhering to the truths
are not so easily followed and many show little interest in the faith at
Today, there are many Buddhist temples open to the
community offering the Buddha’s teachings on designated evenings during
the week without charge. Needless to say, attendance is minimal at most
monasteries and the older generation is the main group attending instruction
on Buddhist principles.