CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The words “They came in peace” are etched in the Beirut Memorial stone wall, along with the names of 273 service members that lost their lives in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983, including three who died during a rescue mission in Grenada.
On March 24, 1983, members assigned to the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit answered the call for a peacekeeping mission to Beirut. The morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a truck full of compressed gas-enhanced explosives was driven into the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines Headquarters building by a terrorist. Two-hundred and forty-one Marines, Sailors and Soldiers were killed by the impact of the explosion and the building debris.
The bombing in Lebanon was the largest loss of life for Marines in a single action since the Vietnam War and the worst overall since World War II's Iwo Jima battle.
Each year the local community recognizes the importance and sacrifice with a ceremony which is held at the Beirut Memorial Wall in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“Each observance has seen a consistently large audience of widows, sons and daughters, grandchildren, mothers and fathers, friends, civic leaders and serving military personnel who live the motto of the Beirut Veteran’s Association (BVA) “Our First Duty is to Remember, “ said Ronald Bower, vice chairman of the Beirut Memorial Advisory Board of the City of Jacksonville. “Many of the families chose to remain in Jacksonville and they, and their descendants, comprise a large component of those who attend every ceremony.”
Community members are asked to display yellow ribbons to welcome families and survivors on the occasion of the anniversary of the Beirut bombing.
The Onslow Civic Affairs Committee is partnering with students from Northwoods Park Middle School to make yellow ribbons that will be displayed on each of the 273 trees, signifying each of the lives lost, at the Beirut Memorial Grove, located on US17 South across from Camp Geiger.
“Most of the students participating are unaware of the significance of the events that occurred in Beirut," said Heather Shannon, a teacher at Northwoods Park Middle School. “However, with this small gesture, it is brought to life, and we’re able to connect with our community and continue to honor the legacy of the men who gave their lives that day.”
The United Service Organizations of North Carolina is also hosting the Beirut Memorial Ruck, on Oct. 20, which will begin at the Jacksonville Beirut Memorial and travel along the greenway to Camp Lejeune’s Main gate and back to the Memorial. The 10.23 mile route, representing the month and day of the bombing, parallels the memorial trees originally planted in honor of the fallen. Participants are encouraged to carry a weighted pack though it is not mandatory. The USO of North Carolina Jacksonville Center, located on Tallman Street, is the oldest continuously serving USO facility in the world. For more information, visit https://give.uso-nc.org/ruck
“The purpose of this Ruck event is to band together and reflect and honor those lost that Sunday morning, October 23, 1983 and remember the following events in Grenada,” said Amy Leuschke, area director of the USO of North Carolina Coastal. “Our vision is to encourage patriotism and community, observe and memorialize the significance of the event within our community and support our past, present and future military.”
The Onslow Civic Affairs Committee wants the public to consider showing support to honor those who lost their lives.
“Consider the sacrifices made … Consider doing this as a remembrance to the men who died. Consider doing this as a pledge from our community of the sacrifices made on our behalf,” said Don Herring, chair, Onslow Civic Affairs Committee.
October 23 marks the 36th Anniversary of the Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony. The ceremony will take place at the Beirut Memorial in Lejeune Memorial Gardens at 10:30 a.m., followed by a Beirut Memorial wreath-laying ceremony on Camp Geiger which will commence at 2 p.m. According to a press release issued by the city of Jacksonville, Lt. Gen. Brian D. Beaudreault, the commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, will make remarks and introduce featured speaker Lt. Col. Anthony C. Johnston, current commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, the unit that lost most of the men in the bombing. The White Oak High School Chamber Choir will also perform at this year’s observance.