NEW BERN, N.C. --
A Marine of a different nature now greets folks at New Bern’s Coastal Carolina Regional Airport.
A professionally painted bear, named Semper Fi, stands tall in the airport’s main lobby wearing his Marine Corps Dress Blue uniform. Bears are the official mascot of the city and can be found through the municipality.
The paint job on Semper Fi includes his ribbons, an expert rifle badge and an eagle, globe and anchor on his collar.
The artist of Semper Fi, Vicki Vitale-Farrow, painted two other bears around the city for New Bern’s 300th anniversary. Vitale-Farrow works on the Bear Town Bears team, an all-volunteer non-profit organization that places fiberglass bears decorated by local artists at New Bern businesses and other public locations.
Vitale-Farrow said New Bern’s proximity to mulitple Marine Corps installations was a major reason for the bear design.
“It’s for all the Marines that come in and out of this airport and for what they do for our country,” said Vitale-Farrow. “They allow me to continue to do what I love with freedom.”
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Tom Braaten, the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport director, presented the newly adopted bear to the crowd alongside Vitale-Farrow.
To thank the artist for her hard work, Braaten gave Vitale-Farrow a Marine Corps’ “Look Sharp” guide with ruler and a ribbon rack with all the ribbons she painted on Semper Fi.
The ribbons on the bear’s chest represent many of the wars Marines have fought. The bear wears Korean Service, World War II Victory, Vietnam Service, Southwest Asia Service, National Defense Service, Combat Action, and Good Conduct ribbons.
Vitale-Farrow said she typically spends 70 to 100 hours on each bear, and Semper Fi, took about 45 days to finish.
Semper Fi was made a Marine corporal. Braaten said he feels the rank of corporal was and still is, a very important position in the Marine Corps.
“Pinning on corporal is a real stepping-stone,” said Braaten. “They’re proud when they put on that second stripe and become a noncommissioned officer.”
“I think it’s going to pick service members’ spirits up and make them feel good about coming home,” said Cutis Bare, vice chairman of the airport authority.