MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed the May 5 as Memorial Day, to commemorate all the soldiers who perished in battle. It wasn’t until 1971 when the day became a recognized holiday to always fall on the last Monday of May.
While people in different parts of the country have their own way of honoring the fallen, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the surrounding communities have memorials and ceremonies to remind current service members, families and DoD civilians about those who made the ultimate sacrifice in past conflicts.
“The base essentially has four ceremonies to cover the various memorials on and around Camp Lejeune,” said Fernando Schiefelbein, operations specialist for base operations and plans division, MCB Camp Lejeune. “The majority of these memorials are held in the Lejeune Memorial Gardens next to Camp Johnson.”
The Lejeune Memorial Gardens currently house memorials for those who died in the Vietnam War, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on Oct. 23, 1983 and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.
“I went out (to the LMG) last year and, honestly, it sent chills down my spine,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Phillips, administrative clerk with the Camp Lejeune dispersing office. “It reminds me of the heritage and legacy I’ve become a part of. Seeing all those names makes me think ‘what was his story.’”
In addition to MLG, Camp Geiger is home to the original 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division barracks which serves to commemorate, the unit that was attacked in Beirut, over 25 years ago. A third memorial can be found behind the 2nd Marine Logistics Group headquarters building, formally the 2nd MarDiv headquarters.
“These memorials aren’t here just for the veterans who served in the battles and their families, but also for the younger troops to learn and remember,” said Jack Tagmyer, manager of the Auto Body Hobby Shop aboard Camp Lejeune and a Vietnam War veteran. “The worst thing we can do is not do anything to remember and let a war be forgotten in history.”
Camp Lejeune also participates in annual recognition ceremonies such as the Memorial Day Observance Ceremony every, the Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony, held every 23rd of October, the Vietnam Recognition Day, to be held every last Saturday of April and the Patriot Day Observance, held every 11th of September.
Although there are currently three memorials in the LMG, Schiefelbein hopes there are future plans to construct more memorials for other conflicts – both past and present.
“While Camp Lejeune holds these various ceremonies and has these different memorials, the Lejeune Memorial Gardens is in a continuous state of development,” said Schiefelbein. “There may be future plans to construct memorials dedicated to past wars as well as present ones.”
While some may not see much in a weathered collection of marble and bronze, others see everything – a past that comes alive and is kept alive, never to be forgotten.
“Wars eventually end, but the fact that Americans lost their lives fighting in them does not,” said Tagmyer. “The very least we can do is remember and give something back to those who gave everything.”
The Memorial Day Observance Ceremony this May 31 will be held at the Coastal Carolina State Veterans Cemetery hosted by the Beirut Memorial Chapter 642 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.