MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, was struck by terrorists on Oct. 23, 1983, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the Jacksonville community suffered severe losses.
The community has not forgotten. After 29 years the area continues to honor the memories of those lost in the attack through the upcoming Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony, an annual event where the military and civilian communities, and the families of those lost gather to remember.
The ceremony is open to the public and scheduled for Oct. 23 at 10:30 a.m. at the Beirut Memorial site in the Camp Lejeune Memorial Garden.
“This is near and dear to everybody’s heart,” said Fernando Shiefelbein, operations specialist with Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune. “It brings everyone together, and it brings healing and closure to the tragedy.”
The 2nd Marine Division Band is slated to perform in the ceremony and the leaders representing MCB Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and 1st Battalion, 8th Marines will be participating. Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry is slated to be the guest speaker.
“The ceremony is very touching,” said Schiefelbein. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it. It brings back memories.”
Three wreaths will be set down by special guests during the event. The wreaths represent the connections between the base and city, the lives of the service members lost in Beirut, and the lives of service members lost in training accidents.
After the bombing the city and the base supported each other. The community planted trees and built monuments.
“The city immediately took action to commemorate those Marines,” said Schiefelbein. “We’re still combating terrorist attacks, the service men’s names on the wall aren’t just numbers. This ceremony puts a face to it. They are our sons and daughters out there. There are people grieving for all of the men lost that day.”
The ceremony is one of three taking place to commemorate the occasion. Families are scheduled to hold a private candlelight vigil at the site at 6 a.m. The Marine Corps League is slated to hold a wreath laying for family members at the Beirut marker aboard Camp Geiger at 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
“I encourage everybody to attend,” said Schiefelbein. “Nothing is held back, and it has the full support of the city and the base. We always put our best foot forward.”
In case of inclement weather the ceremony will be held in the Trinity United Methodist Church. Uniform for Marine attendees will be service “A” with barracks cover.