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12-15-05, 07:29 AM
Center honors Marine's service
December 15,2005

At the Ball Center bar, every drink will be a toast to Gunnery Sgt. Terry Ball.

Ball, a member of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, was wounded in June by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was comatose for nearly eight weeks. In August, the career warrior died suddenly following surgery.

Camp Lejeune now has a building dubbed in his honor. The Ball Center, located at the old staff NCO club across the street from the Goettge Memorial Field House, officially opened Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

It's a place where Marines, and their friends and families, can gather to have fun, do business or anything in between, a facility named after a "consummate professional," said Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson, commander of Marine Corps Installations East, before Ball's family cut the ribbon.

"Today we're going to cut this ribbon and open this facility and remember Gunnery Sgt. Ball and what he did for the Marine Corps," said Dickerson.

The facility offers a banquet hall for weddings and parties along with a restaurant that will serve a buffet-style lunch every weekday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But the main attraction, arguably, is "Heroz," a full-service sports bar offering high-definition TVs with satellite capability, pool tables, video games and all manner of fried and grilled fare. Entertainment packages such as the NFL Sunday Ticket will no doubt draw sports-loving leathernecks in droves.

The kegs still untapped and the grill yet to be fired up, the U-shaped bar gleamed with fresh varnish. The air in the dimly lit room smelled cool and new - still free from cigarette smoke and the tang of beer.

The famous riffs of rockers AC/DC pulsed out from the speaker system - a prophetic choice because "Heroz" is the type of place that will probably shake Marines all night long.

"This is awesome," said Pfc. Dennis Albaugh, a 24-year-old with India Company. "I'm going to watch the Orange Bowl here and the National Championship game. You can't beat this. You feel at home here."

Albaugh served in Iraq with Ball and said the center is an excellent tribute.

"It's a great tribute to him," he said. "Really, it's the least they can do. We all take pride being in the Marine Corps and being in India Company. (Ball) was the backbone of India Company. Seeing his wife and children cut the ribbon reaffirmed the reason I joined the Corps."

"It's a huge honor," said Jennifer Ball, Terry's wife. "We would rather have him here and having a beer at the bar. But he'd be happy. This will be a place where Marines can come and have fun."

Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 229.