Set in a wooded site in Jacksonville on the edge of Camp Lejeune Marine Base is a special tribute to 273 soldiers who perished in a terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon. They were more than soldiers to the people of Jacksonville, one of North Carolina’s military heritage areas. The U.S. Marine Corps’ 24th Marine Amphibious Unit was sent to Beirut on a peacekeeping mission. They had been based at Camp Lejeune, and they were friends, neighbors, fellow church members, baseball and soccer coaches – members of the community. Jacksonville and Onslow County in general has always had a special relationship with the military. The area is home to five military bases as reflected in the county’s slogan, “Pride in Service, People and Place.” After the tragedy, members of the community joined together with Camp Lejeune to create this unique Beirut Memorial. People from throughout the community did everything they could, including a girl auctioning off her Cabbage Patch Doll, to raise funds to complete it. The memorial features two broken walls with a bronze statue of a soldier standing on a pedestal between them. The memorial is inscribed “They Came In Peace.” It includes the poem “The Other Wall” and has the names of 273 members of the community who gave their lives in Beirut, including three that died during a rescue mission in Grenada. The site hosts an annual observance in October with families of the deceased, military officials and members of the community.
photo credit: Jacksonville • Onslow Chamber of Commerce