Among the 12 sea turtles released in Surf City Wednesday were 2 named after British, US D-Day participants

SURF CITY -- Hundreds gathered on Wednesday morning to watch 12 sea turtles released back into the ocean by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.

But this year's spring release on Topsail Island had an added patriotic and international twist reaching back decades.

Wednesday's release commemorated the 74th anniversary of D-Day, and two green turtles were released in honor of soldiers that participated in the Normandy invasion. Blondie was released in honor of Blondie Hasler, a member of the British Royal Marines and leader of the famous Cockleshell Heroes, who participated in Operation Frankton and raided Nazi-occupied Bordeaux in 1942. Hutch was released in honor of Ed Hutchinson, a member of the U.S. Navy. Both turtles are roughly 3 years old.

The commemoration began with the presentation of the colors of the United States and the United Kingdom. Blondie and Hutch were then carried onto the beach by volunteers, shown to spectators and released into the ocean.

Other turtles released included four greens, five Kemp’s ridleys and three loggerheads, which were wheeled onto the beach by volunteers.

Jean Beasley, director of the Pender County facility, said the sea turtles end up at her center for a variety of reasons -- including injuries or illnesses.

She said the center gets the turtles from people who report them, people who rescue them and sometimes from the N.C. Marine Patrol. The length of their stay is determined by how sick or injured they are and what condition their immune system is in.

Beasley added that there's always a large crowd for releases.

Janice McCarthy, a volunteer who gives tours at the sea turtle hospital, said she has been to a few releases and it’s exciting to see the turtles get to go home. But she thought this release was special because Hutch was named after her friend’s father.

“He had just recently died,” McCarthy said. “So, it was really touching.”

Reporter Bailey Aldridge can be reached at 910-343-2310 or