Two generations of Vets

Richard Ferry (left), a former Marine and current distance runner, with his grandson Ben Ferry of West Tisbury, a current Marine. — Photo courtesy of LCPL Benjamin Ferry

Gung-ho gets it done.

Former U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) captain Richard Ferry and his grandson, Marine LCpl. Ben Ferry, of West Tisbury, are good examples.

We all need heroes in our lives and Ben Ferry is a lucky man. He didn’t have to go looking for his. His grandfather qualified for the job a long time ago.

And as his luck would have it, Ben Ferry today finds himself serving in the same Marine unit in which his grandfather served 60 years ago.

LCpl. Ferry, an automatic weapons rifleman with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, is currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan, a few hundred miles south of the Chosin Reservoir in South Korea, where his grandfather fought and was twice wounded in one of the longest and bloodiest engagements of the Korean Conflict in the early 1950s.

Today, Mr. Ferry, 83, lives in Indian Harbor, Fla., where he is the president and regulatory affairs manager for the Valjean Corporation, a personal care product company. Mr. Ferry served for 15 years in the Marine Corps and became an attorney after attending law school at night. He moved his family to the Island in the late 1960s when the Steamship Authority (SSA) retained him as a legal consultant, handling real estate and other asset purchases, as well as negotiating contracts with vendors on SSA vessels.

Along the way, Mr. Ferry has been active in political campaign management, including former mayor Kevin H. White’s first mayoral campaign and organizing regional Democrats for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.

Three of his six children live on the Island full time, including Ben’s father, James, and Michael, who are construction contractors. His daughter, Paula Morrissey, is a nurse at Windemere extended care facility here.

“He was the go-to guy on the Island,” Michael Ferry recalled this week. “He focused on the task at hand. I remember one time Frank Sinatra tied up his boat in Edgartown and we had a chance to go aboard but we had another commitment that Dad insisted we (honor). So no Frank Sinatra,” he said with a chuckle. “He’s an inspiration to everyone in the family.”

In an email to the Times from Okinawa, Ben Ferry credited his grandfather for the positive impact on his life. “It is no secret across Martha’s Vineyard that like a lot of other natives, I got in a little bit of trouble in my youth,” he said. “In order to change that, I had to work extra hard to get into the Marine Corps and my grandpa stood beside me, encouraging me the entire time. There were countless people who said I could never do it, I would never last, but my Grandpa stood beside me and helped me through it. I talk to my grandpa almost bi-weekly just to check in, see how he is doing, see if there are any stories he has to tell me, and I share stories with him from my time in the Corps that only another Marine would understand.”

LCpl. Ferry is aware of the value that bonding and relationships have on forming young lives. He credits his parents, his Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School hockey coach, Matt Mincone, and West Tisbury police chief Dan Rossi as positive forces in his young life.

The Times spoke with Richard Ferry from Athens, Greece, where he is preparing to run a 10K this weekend. Mr. Ferry took up running at age 80 and sees his new pastime as no big deal. “You can do anything you want to do as long as you put your mind to it,” he said.

Grandpa cut to the chase. “[Ben was] a good kid who needed a kick in the ass,” he said. “The Marine Corps gave that to him, and he has done a really good job.” Mr. Ferry was the speaker at LCpl. Ferry’s recent graduation from advanced infantry training at Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

The elder Mr. Ferry, a West Roxbury native, came to the Marines in a slightly circuitous route himself. In a recent interview a Marine public information officer shared with the Times, Mr. Ferry credits Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams for his Marine career.

Mr. Ferry and his friend Neal Mahoney, son of former chief Red Sox scout Neal Mahoney, were at Fenway Park in 1949, talking with Mr. Williams, a decorated World War II and Korean Conflict Marine fighter pilot.

“Ted asked what we were doing in town. Neal admitted that we had caught the ride with his father because we wanted to go to the Federal Building to join the Naval Reserve, [mainly] so we could get an ID card and alter the date of birth [so] we could drink,” he said. “Of course, Ted thought that was funny, but he asked, ‘what are you, a couple of (wussies)? If you want to drink and be men, why don’t you join the Marine Corps like I did?’” A year later, Mr. Ferry found himself in Korea, at war, in temperatures that dropped to 35 degrees below zero..

Mr. Ferry is a member of the “Frozen Chosin,” the nickname for the Marines who fought at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. He unfurled a “Frozen Chosin” flag this year as he crossed the finish line in a USMC 17.75K run.

“I am in no way a combat veteran,” Ben said. “I would not want to take away from those brave men who are combat veterans such as my fellow Islanders U.S. Navy Seal Tom Rancich, U.S. Navy Corpsmen Matt Bradley, U.S. Marine Jake Merrill, U.S. Marine Michael Halt, U.S. Army Mike Blake, and, of course, my grandfather.

“When we as service members sign our names on that dotted line and raise our right hands and swear to serve and protect the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, we acknowledge what we are getting ourselves into and accept what the consequences may be. The thing I did not initially realize when I signed the contract is that I signed that contract not only for myself but I also signed for my family, my friends and my community.”

LCpl. Ferry has a clear career path today. “My plan is to do my four years active in the infantry and then re-enlist in the infantry reserves so that I can finish my last year of college and earn a Criminal Justice degree, with a concentration in anti-terrorism and homeland security. After that I intend to re-enlist in the reserves until I am able to retire. After completing my degree I will attend the police academy and try to become a police officer.

“My end goal — no matter whether it be service with the FBI, Border Patrol, an Anti-Terrorism Unit, or a local police officer — is to blend my military career and, hopefully, my law enforcement career until such time that I can retire from both and go fishing just like every Islander dreams of doing,” he said.