JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- Hundreds of veterans, military personnel and members of the community gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the Beirut barracks bombing during the Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony hosted by the City of Jacksonville in cooperation with Marine Corps Installations East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the Beirut Memorial Advisory Board at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., Oct. 23.
“We honor those who lost their lives in the name of peace,” said Abe Rosen, chairman of the Beirut Memorial Advisory Board. “Oct. 23, 1983, holds a special place in our community’s history and the history of the Marine Corps.”
Silence fell over the solemn crowd as Rosen called for a moment of quiet remembrance.
Though the tragedy shook the nation, it brought together the people of Onslow County and the service members of Camp Lejeune.
“I’m honored to renew the pledge that we as a city will never forget that day,” said Sammy Phillips, mayor of the City of Jacksonville. “We mourned the loss of life, grieved with the families and mourned together as one community, both civilian and military. We have and continue to offer our compassion, prayers and thoughts to the families of those who lost loved ones.”
Phillips announced the trees first planted along Lejeune Boulevard are in memory of the service members who died in Beirut and will continue to live on in the new Beirut Memorial Grove.
Brig. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi, MCIEAST and Camp Lejeune commanding general, noted the tragedy became the bedrock between the military and the community that has continued to grow stronger each year.
“Together we grieve over tragic losses and continue to carry the torch of remembrance,” he remarked. “Oct. 23 is etched in our memories. There are hundreds of stories for every Marine, sailor and soldier that were lost that day. Thirty years later, we still grieve over the events, but as a community we are more unified than ever before.”
Retired Col. Tim Geraghty, commanding officer of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in Beirut, was welcomed to the stage with resounding applause from the crowd.
“Today we gather to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Geraghty. “It will be some time before the last chapter of this story is written. I recall the heartfelt support the city of Jacksonville provided without hesitation. A special bond was established and is more vibrant than ever.”
The 2nd Marine Division Band followed Geraghty’s address with the original score, “Freedom’s Holy Breath,” written by retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Forest Brown specifically for the observance.
Gen. James F. Amos, 35th commandant of the Marine Corps, stood before the hundreds of guests to acknowledge the families of the fallen service members and the importance of honoring the 30th anniversary of the events in Beirut.
“I have no expectations that this morning’s remembrance is any less painful in 2013 than it was in 1983,” he said. “This is a heavy-hearted day for the nation and its corps of Marines.”
He explained the history and events leading up to the attacks and the fight against terrorism that continues today.
“On a morning much like today, terror struck,” Amos said. “Two hundred and forty-one Marines, sailors and soldiers volunteered to make a difference and serve their country. We honor each of them.”
He noted how the world we live in changed forever the morning of Oct. 23, 1983.
“Across the globe, when extremists tested our resolve as a nation, the men who fell thirty years ago would be proud to know we’ve never backed down, and we never will,” Amos said. “The character and courage of the Marines has never wavered. They are as ready as ever to answer the clarion’s call.”
Finally, retired Gen. Alfred M. Gray Jr., 29th commandant of the Marine Corps, took the stage to speak to the crowd, much like he did three decades ago when he made the announcement of what happened in Beirut.
“The warriors did not die in vain, and we must remember that,” he said. “The legacy lives on.”
Amos and Gray joined military and civilian leaders in a wreath laying ceremony in front of the memorial while the 8th Marine Regiment fired the rifle salute.
As the lone bugler played the final farewell for the fallen service members, those in attendance vowed to continue forward with the mission to always remember the sacrifice of the men who came in peace.
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