World War II vet gets standing ovation at polling place
After World War II veteran Glen Belenchia voted at Tucker a few weeks ago he received a standing ovation from the poll workers.
Mary Marshall of Philadelphia was incredibly moved while working at the polls on Election Day. She and her husband R.B. were both working at the Tucker Precinct 1 when Belenchia walked in wearing a World War II cap.
“It was absolutely amazing to see,” Marshall said. “I recognized the impact of it as soon as Mr. Belenchia walked through the door. My husband and son are both in the military, so I’m very military-oriented.”
Marshall recalled seeing a younger man with Belenchia, who turned out to be his son, Dr. Russell Balenchia of Union.
“His son was there in case Mr. Belenchia stumbled and fell,” she said. “He had no wheelchair or cane. He was just shuffling along without any help, and it was so moving to see.”
Marshall said Belenchia finished voting, put his ballot in the machine, and it was then that everyone broke out into applause as he was about to leave.
“Me and the other poll workers started clapping first, and the rest of the people there voting joined un with us,” she said. “My husband, who was a U.S. Navy submariner, was also wearing a veteran baseball cap, went over to talk to Mr. Belenchia, and they had a short conversation.”
Marshall said she had tears in her eyes after the experience.
“I was so overwhelmed,” she said. “Seeing him acknowledge our applause made it so much more special to me. Every vote counts and every vote is important. A 93 year old veteran’s vote is just as important as a young teenager’s vote.”
R.B. Marshall, a U.S. Navy Veteran submariner, said he’s always had a special place in his heart for other veterans.
“Veterans are special, and it’s amazing to see veterans from World War II, considering how many people were killed during that war,” Marshall said. “Seeing these veterans still around is really great.”
Marshall recalled going over to Belenchia after he was finished voting and talking to him briefly about their military service.
“I went over and put my hand on his shoulder. We talked about where we served,” he said. “He remembers being in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, which was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific Theatre.”
Marshall talked to Belenchia about his service in the Navy back in the 1960s.
“I left Neshoba County in 1963 to serve in the Navy. Out of boot camp I went to electronic school in San Fransisco, and then submarine school,” he said. “I finally got on a submarine in 1967 and was on around five or six of them during my service.”
Marshall said everyone standing up and applauded once their conversation was finished.
“He was very pleased for the applause,” Marshall said. “We’re just a really tight family when it comes to the military. My son was a Navy lieutenant on the subs and was a commander when he got out. He served 5 years from 1992-1997. All of this was such a great and special experience.”
“I’m proud that my father is still alive and took the time to go out in vote, and fought in that war so we could have these freedoms...and he’s still exercising those rights by casting his vote,” his son, Dr. Russell Belenchia, added.