JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Saturday marked the 38th anniversary of the Oct. 23, 1983 Beirut bombing in Lebanon that killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers.
Many were Jacksonville residents who were members of Camp Lejeune’s 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit that were ordered to Beirut as part of a peacekeeping mission between Christian and Muslim groups.
In honor of the fallen service members and survivors who served in Lebanon from 1958 to 1984 and in Grenada, veterans city leaders and military officials gathered for the annual observance, which was virtual this year out of an abundance of caution due to the pandemic.
“This is a sad day for me because I just can’t get the explosion out of my head,” recalled Beirut veteran Virgil Young.
Beirut Veterans of America president Myron Kyle echoed Young, thinking about how not all of the service members made it back home.
“They came in peace has taken on a different meaning throughout the years,” said Kyle. “It provides comfort for the families that were left behind.”
Young said how family is more than blood.
“Even in the time of crisis when I wanted to commit suicide, I had my Beirut Marines to help my wife out tremendously,” said Young. “So, to come down here to honor my brothers on this wall, I’ll be here until the day I die.”
Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips said he promises the city will always be in support of that honor.
“The promise that we made 38 years ago still stands good today and we will continue that, not just with me, but with future leaders of the city to come,” said Phillips. “We will always maintain that promise to never forget what they did.”
The memorial site is available to the public 24 hours, seven days a week.