Always Remembering

Two Beirut Veterans experience a passing of the torch


Smith was in the front of the formation and was shocked when Weant and Kovach stood in front of him.

“Out of the corner of my eye I saw them. I thought ‘there is no way that’s them,” said Smith. “They pointed at me and smiled, and I almost broke down in tears.”

When Weant and Kovach joined the Marines, the ceremony had not been implemented, but that does not mean it had any less of an emotional impact.

“When they platoon marched in William was in the front and when he saw us I saw a little smile appear on his face, and he stood taller and straighter,” said Weant. “It gave him a little boost of energy and pride—and God you could see the pride in him.”

Normally the handover of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is an honor reserved for the drill instructors of the platoon but in exceptional circumstances exemptions are made. Weant was the one to give Smith his EGA, an incredible emotional moment for the both of them.

“Being the one to hand him his EGA, I had a hard time composing myself,” said Weant. It filled me with pride, it was incredible.
Standing right next to Weant was his best friend Kovach who had one brief message for Smith.

“I did everything in my power to try and hold in my emotions, but I couldn’t hold it in so I teared up, said Kovach. “I looked right in his eyes and said one thing, ‘Wear it well.’”

Smith graduated recruit training on May, 31 and has hopes of following in his grandfather’s footsteps—by serving as an infantryman in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

NEWS INFO

Always Remembering

Two Beirut Veterans accomplishing the mission


Filling the Gap
Photo By Cpl. Dakota Dodd | Pvt. William Smith, a recruit with... read more
PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, UNITED STATES
06.05.2024
Story by Lance Cpl. William Horsley
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island
Subscribe401
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – On Oct. 23, 1983, Cpl. Dan Kovach was manning Checkpoint 8, a small outpost near the bullet ridden American University Library building in Beirut, when he heard a loud explosion.

Kovach, an infantryman with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, saw two large mushroom clouds in the sky coming from the direction of the Battalion Landing Team barracks nearly a mile away.

The sound of mortars and small arms firefights had become a daily occurrence in Lebanon, but Kovach knew this was different. For the next few minutes, there was confusion over the radio as Marines on post attempted to reach the headquarters for 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Finally a single Marine’s voice came across the airwaves with a sorrowful message—“The BLT is gone. The BLT is gone.”

Kovach had just been relieved from his post when the explosions occurred and he walked inside into the Library when he discovered that the barracks had been destroyed. The barracks housed the supporting elements for the battalion and without it, relief was sparse and news spread slowly to his position.

After Kovach heard the transmission about the BLT he saw a friend of his, Donnie Giblin who had a brother assigned with the BLT headquarters, sitting alone in a dark stairwell.

“I walked up the flight of stairs and sat down next to him, he looked up at me and said ‘Danny, my brother is gone,’” said Kovach. “I told him, ‘you don’t know that,’ and he told me ‘he’s gone I can feel it.

That moment was when Kovach began to understand the severity of the situation. He did not see the remains of the building until Nov. 8, 16 days after the explosion, when relief for his unit arrived for them to redeploy back to Camp Lejeune.

After the barracks bombing, Kovach stood guard on a bridge adjacent to the library building at Checkpoint 8 and Checkpoint 9 with Marines and Lebanese soldiers.

On Nov. 7, Kovach was standing duty with LCpl. Greg Wal at Checkpoint 8, after a few hours of their duty the Lebanese Armed Forces who were standing duty abandoned their post and ran away down the street. “One soldier ran back to tell us, ‘Marines, you leave now, you got big assault coming to this bridge, you die here,’ and just like that he turned around and ran,” said Kovach.

“LCpl. Wal looked at me and said, ‘what are we gonna do,’ said Kovach. “I said to him ‘well our fifth general order says we don’t leave post until we are properly relieved, so we are gonna stay right here.”

Shortly after this discussion they got into intense firefights and Wal was wounded in action. Wal was evacuated under the bridge by Kovach in case they were overran they wouldn’t find him. Using armament left behind by the Lebanese soldiers Kovach held his position against an assault of between 50 and 100 enemy forces.

About 4 hours in the fight was the first time the battalion was able to render aid to his position and the mortarman dropped over 100 mortars in danger close firings on the bridge and the buildings around it.

Around 4.a.m. a military truck arrived to evacuate his platoon. After a brief argument about leaving, Kovach got into the back of the truck and rode through Beirut towards the barracks. This was when he saw the aftermath for the first time.

“I jumped out of the back of the truck and I swear to god I’d never smelled anything so vile in all my life,” said Kovach.

“I saw the craters and the piles of debris were 15 feet high,” said Kovach. “It was like they took a bulldozer and piled all of that building into these gigantic piles of concrete and it was just filled with human flesh.”

Two Vehicles laden with explosives targeted the barracks for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and the barracks for 3rd Company of France’s 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment, killing 220 U.S. Marines, 18 Navy Sailors, three Army Soldiers, and 58 French Paratroopers. To this day the bombing remains the largest single day loss of life for the U.S. Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II as well as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

The Aftermath

For the Marines deployed to Beirut at the time, the barracks bombing was not the only day of conflict. The months leading up to the bombing and the days afterwards leading to the evacuations of the Marines were filled with constant firefights. According to Kovach, the commander of Alpha Company requisitioned over 50,000 rounds of ammunition a day for the company, in which most of it was used.

“Beirut was the most violent place I’d ever seen, and that includes movies, pictures, anything,” said Kovach. “I’ve seen all kinds of war stuff, and I think to myself I’ve seen way more combat than that.”

One of Kovach’s best friends, Sgt. John Weant, an infantryman squad leader in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, was wounded in action in Beirut and received a Purple Heart from combat actions there.

Over a month before the barracks bombing, Weant was at the perimeter with his platoon hanging out with Kovach when one of the first major firefights began.

“In the evening we started taking fire so I had to leave Dan’s position and I could take charge of my squad,” said Weant. “I had to cross an open area to return to my position and stuff was flying overhead, and that’s when I knew the situation was bad.”

Weant and his squad were dug in, in a series of bunkers and trenches next to each other and they took fire all night long. On the next morning, Weant was checking his Marines positions when they began to take rocket and mortar fire from the nearby hills. One explosive hit the command tent where the platoon sergeant was briefing the platoon commander on the situation.

The blast threw Weant off his feet knocking him unconscious, when he recovered, he ran towards the command tent with some of his Marines and a corpsman. The platoon sergeant did not survive the blast but the platoon commander was evacuated to Weant’s squad’s position where the corpsman attempted to treat his wounds.

“We were taking such intense small arms fire from the hills that med evac couldn’t get to us by helicopter,” said Weant. “About 45 minutes later they were able to get two AMTRACs to us and evacuate us.”

Weant and several other wounded Marines were loaded onto the AMTRACs including his platoon commander who succumbed to his injuries in transit. Weant was severely wounded and after being sent to several military hospitals for treatment until he was sent home to New Haven CT., for convalescent leave.

Weant was still recovering on Oct. 23 when news of the bombing reached America.

“I was out drinking with buddies and when I came home and flipped on the TV and it was on immediately,” said Weant. “I just knew that I had lost a lot of my brothers in that building.”

Weant was glued to the screen as the news broadcast displayed a banner listing the ever-growing names of Marines confirmed killed in action.

“I was beside myself,” said Weant. “All I wanted to do was go back to my unit and fight,”

“I did whatever I could to get back to my unit I did everything the doctors told me to do,” said Weant. “I worked twice as hard to get rehabilitated.”

Gold Star Families

While still recovering and watching the news broadcasts Weant’s mother told him about a blue star family in Naugatuck, CT., now a gold star family. A blue star family is the immediate family of a service member during a time of conflict. A gold star family is the immediate family of a fallen servicemember who died during a time of conflict. The family had a Marine from the same platoon as Weant who had been transferred to the BLT and was killed in the bombing.

“My mother talked me into going to visit that family and I spent the next few days visiting with them,” said Weant. “It was unbelievable, even though they lost their son they took me in. And to this day they all treat me like a brother, it’s incredible.”

Sometime later, Weant heard of another gold star family, the family of Donald Giblin, a machine gunner with Alpha Company. This was the Marine who sat in the staircase with Kovach in Beirut. His brother, Sgt. Timothy Giblin was a radio operator killed in the BLT building.

Donald accompanied his brother’s body home and Weant traveled all the way from Connecticut to Providence, RI. He spent a week with the family.

These visits were the first of many, and for Weant, were some of the hardest but most rewarding experiences he’d had in his life.

“It was an amazing feeling the way those families treated me,” said Weant “From then on it was all about the support of the Gold Star Families.”

Weant was not the only Marine from Beirut who shared a feeling of obligation to the gold star families.

For Kovach filling these gaps have been hugely important throughout his life, “all the things they were missing, we stood there and we filled that gap,” said Kovach.

“The Gold Star Families were missing something,” said Kovach. “Not just their Marine but the things that come after the Marine Corps; a husband, a father, an uncle, a grandfather.”

Since Beirut

Over the last 40 years Weant, Kovach, and many other veterans of Beirut and the members of the gold star families remain close. These Marines travel great distances keeping up the bonds and camaraderie alive, visiting each other when they are ill, attending funerals, and just generally supporting each other.

Weant and Kovach have been best friends since infantry training and continued to look after the gold star families together with the other surviving Marines from Beirut. The veterans hold a memorial service in October in Jacksonville, N.C., every year in honor of the Marines that were lost. At the fifth annual memorial service for the Marines lost in the bombings at Beirut, Weant and the other surviving Marines really started connecting with a lot of the Gold Star Family members because there were so many gathered there.

“Getting close with these families really helped with our healing, but it was more so important for the Gold Star Families for us to be part of their families,’ said Weant. “It was an amazing feeling the way they took us in.”

Among those present at this memorial was the family of Sergeant William Pollard, a personnel clerk who was killed in the BLT building. His wife Margaret Pollard brought with her nine-year-old Stacey Pollard, who had to grow up without a father. Weant and Kovach became close with the family visiting anytime they came through the town they lived in, as well as the yearly memorial service. These Marines would eventually extend their care and affection for Stacey’s oldest son, William Smith.

“We always looked at it as standing in the gap, he couldn’t be there to be a grandfather so we did,” said Kovach. “We talked on the phone, wrote letters, saw him several times throughout the year.”

Margaret unfortunately passed away a few years ago and the bond Weant and Kovach had with the family only grew stronger. For Stacey Pollard, being a gold star family member is very important and she eventually became a board member for The Beirut Veterans of America fraternity. The goal of the fraternity is to continue telling the story of Beirut so that the Marines who served there are never forgotten.

Smith spent a lot of time around Weant and Kovach as well as the other veterans of Beirut, especially during the memorial services. Every year the surviving Marines get together in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Express in Jacksonville and tell their war stories.

“William loves to talk to these guys, he always asks them questions about what the Marine Corps is like, he wanted to know anything he could about his grandpa,” said Stacey. “He loved hearing stories from them, joking with them, and they basically treat him like a nephew.”

Smith has attended almost every year since he was six.

"What impacted me most from these Marines was the camaraderie, after all these years they were still close friends,” said Smith. “All these Marines, some who stood side by side in Beirut and others who never saw each other still share a close bond.”

In Oct. 2023, the Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, now nicknamed the ‘Beirut Battalion,’ celebrated The Marine Corps 248th birthday. For the birthday the battalion hosted a ball and had several Beirut veterans and family members in attendance including Weant, Kovach, and the Pollard family.

During the ball, the Battalion Commander, Lt Col. William Kerrigan, brought the attention to the Pollard family and announced that Smith would be enlisting in the Marine Corps the following year as an infantryman. When the announcement was made, Smith received a standing ovation from all in attendance.

“It was breathtaking, to know that he is carrying on his grandfather’s honor,” said Stacey. “The pride that everybody had in him for choosing to enlist was amazing.”

“Every Marine in that room stood up and gave him applause and I stood up and did the same,” said Kovach.

“He wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, he like a surrogate son to me and I was blown away,” said Weant “It was probably one of the best days of my life.”

Kerrigan as well as many of the Marines in the unit told Smith that he will always have a place in their battalion should he choose to go there.

Boot Camp

Smith arrived to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for recruit training in March. In the beginning of training Smith did not believe he would think of his grandfather, but that changed quickly. When things started to get hard, Smith began to question his decisions and would pray that his grandfather was watching over him.

“Every time I thought I couldn’t get through this, I thought to myself ‘you currently have got this uniform on that he died in so I better give it my all before I say I can’t do this,’” said Smith.

On May 18, Smith completed the Crucible and received a special surprise when he stood before the Iwo Jima monument to receive his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

Smith was in the front of the formation and was shocked when Weant and Kovach stood in front of him.

“Out of the corner of my eye I saw them. I thought ‘there is no way that’s them,” said Smith. “They pointed at me and smiled, and I almost broke down in tears.”

When Weant and Kovach joined the Marines, the ceremony had not been implemented, but that does not mean it had any less of an emotional impact.

“When they platoon marched in William was in the front and when he saw us I saw a little smile appear on his face, and he stood taller and straighter,” said Weant. “It gave him a little boost of energy and pride—and God you could see the pride in him.”

Normally the handover of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is an honor reserved for the drill instructors of the platoon but in exceptional circumstances exemptions are made. Weant was the one to give Smith his EGA, an incredible emotional moment for the both of them.

“Being the one to hand him his EGA, I had a hard time composing myself,” said Weant. It filled me with pride, it was incredible.
Standing right next to Weant was his best friend Kovach who had one brief message for Smith.

“I did everything in my power to try and hold in my emotions, but I couldn’t hold it in so I teared up, said Kovach. “I looked right in his eyes and said one thing, ‘Wear it well.’”

Smith graduated recruit training on May, 31 and has hopes of following in his grandfather’s footsteps—by serving as an infantryman in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

NEWS INFO
Date Taken: 06.05.2024
Date Posted: 06.05.2024 10:37
Story ID: 473097
Location: PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, US
Web Views: 72
Downloads: 0
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This work, Filling the Gap, by LCpl William Horsley, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.

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Filling the Gap
Photo By Cpl. Dakota Dodd | Pvt. William Smith, a recruit with... read more
PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, UNITED STATES
06.05.2024
Story by Lance Cpl. William Horsley
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island
Subscribe401
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – On Oct. 23, 1983, Cpl. Dan Kovach was manning Checkpoint 8, a small outpost near the bullet ridden American University Library building in Beirut, when he heard a loud explosion.

Kovach, an infantryman with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, saw two large mushroom clouds in the sky coming from the direction of the Battalion Landing Team barracks nearly a mile away.

The sound of mortars and small arms firefights had become a daily occurrence in Lebanon, but Kovach knew this was different. For the next few minutes, there was confusion over the radio as Marines on post attempted to reach the headquarters for 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Finally a single Marine’s voice came across the airwaves with a sorrowful message—“The BLT is gone. The BLT is gone.”

Kovach had just been relieved from his post when the explosions occurred and he walked inside into the Library when he discovered that the barracks had been destroyed. The barracks housed the supporting elements for the battalion and without it, relief was sparse and news spread slowly to his position.

After Kovach heard the transmission about the BLT he saw a friend of his, Donnie Giblin who had a brother assigned with the BLT headquarters, sitting alone in a dark stairwell.

“I walked up the flight of stairs and sat down next to him, he looked up at me and said ‘Danny, my brother is gone,’” said Kovach. “I told him, ‘you don’t know that,’ and he told me ‘he’s gone I can feel it.

That moment was when Kovach began to understand the severity of the situation. He did not see the remains of the building until Nov. 8, 16 days after the explosion, when relief for his unit arrived for them to redeploy back to Camp Lejeune.

After the barracks bombing, Kovach stood guard on a bridge adjacent to the library building at Checkpoint 8 and Checkpoint 9 with Marines and Lebanese soldiers.

On Nov. 7, Kovach was standing duty with LCpl. Greg Wal at Checkpoint 8, after a few hours of their duty the Lebanese Armed Forces who were standing duty abandoned their post and ran away down the street. “One soldier ran back to tell us, ‘Marines, you leave now, you got big assault coming to this bridge, you die here,’ and just like that he turned around and ran,” said Kovach.

“LCpl. Wal looked at me and said, ‘what are we gonna do,’ said Kovach. “I said to him ‘well our fifth general order says we don’t leave post until we are properly relieved, so we are gonna stay right here.”

Shortly after this discussion they got into intense firefights and Wal was wounded in action. Wal was evacuated under the bridge by Kovach in case they were overran they wouldn’t find him. Using armament left behind by the Lebanese soldiers Kovach held his position against an assault of between 50 and 100 enemy forces.

About 4 hours in the fight was the first time the battalion was able to render aid to his position and the mortarman dropped over 100 mortars in danger close firings on the bridge and the buildings around it.

Around 4.a.m. a military truck arrived to evacuate his platoon. After a brief argument about leaving, Kovach got into the back of the truck and rode through Beirut towards the barracks. This was when he saw the aftermath for the first time.

“I jumped out of the back of the truck and I swear to god I’d never smelled anything so vile in all my life,” said Kovach.

“I saw the craters and the piles of debris were 15 feet high,” said Kovach. “It was like they took a bulldozer and piled all of that building into these gigantic piles of concrete and it was just filled with human flesh.”

Two Vehicles laden with explosives targeted the barracks for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and the barracks for 3rd Company of France’s 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment, killing 220 U.S. Marines, 18 Navy Sailors, three Army Soldiers, and 58 French Paratroopers. To this day the bombing remains the largest single day loss of life for the U.S. Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II as well as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

The Aftermath

For the Marines deployed to Beirut at the time, the barracks bombing was not the only day of conflict. The months leading up to the bombing and the days afterwards leading to the evacuations of the Marines were filled with constant firefights. According to Kovach, the commander of Alpha Company requisitioned over 50,000 rounds of ammunition a day for the company, in which most of it was used.

“Beirut was the most violent place I’d ever seen, and that includes movies, pictures, anything,” said Kovach. “I’ve seen all kinds of war stuff, and I think to myself I’ve seen way more combat than that.”

One of Kovach’s best friends, Sgt. John Weant, an infantryman squad leader in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, was wounded in action in Beirut and received a Purple Heart from combat actions there.

Over a month before the barracks bombing, Weant was at the perimeter with his platoon hanging out with Kovach when one of the first major firefights began.

“In the evening we started taking fire so I had to leave Dan’s position and I could take charge of my squad,” said Weant. “I had to cross an open area to return to my position and stuff was flying overhead, and that’s when I knew the situation was bad.”

Weant and his squad were dug in, in a series of bunkers and trenches next to each other and they took fire all night long. On the next morning, Weant was checking his Marines positions when they began to take rocket and mortar fire from the nearby hills. One explosive hit the command tent where the platoon sergeant was briefing the platoon commander on the situation.

The blast threw Weant off his feet knocking him unconscious, when he recovered, he ran towards the command tent with some of his Marines and a corpsman. The platoon sergeant did not survive the blast but the platoon commander was evacuated to Weant’s squad’s position where the corpsman attempted to treat his wounds.

“We were taking such intense small arms fire from the hills that med evac couldn’t get to us by helicopter,” said Weant. “About 45 minutes later they were able to get two AMTRACs to us and evacuate us.”

Weant and several other wounded Marines were loaded onto the AMTRACs including his platoon commander who succumbed to his injuries in transit. Weant was severely wounded and after being sent to several military hospitals for treatment until he was sent home to New Haven CT., for convalescent leave.

Weant was still recovering on Oct. 23 when news of the bombing reached America.

“I was out drinking with buddies and when I came home and flipped on the TV and it was on immediately,” said Weant. “I just knew that I had lost a lot of my brothers in that building.”

Weant was glued to the screen as the news broadcast displayed a banner listing the ever-growing names of Marines confirmed killed in action.

“I was beside myself,” said Weant. “All I wanted to do was go back to my unit and fight,”

“I did whatever I could to get back to my unit I did everything the doctors told me to do,” said Weant. “I worked twice as hard to get rehabilitated.”

Gold Star Families

While still recovering and watching the news broadcasts Weant’s mother told him about a blue star family in Naugatuck, CT., now a gold star family. A blue star family is the immediate family of a service member during a time of conflict. A gold star family is the immediate family of a fallen servicemember who died during a time of conflict. The family had a Marine from the same platoon as Weant who had been transferred to the BLT and was killed in the bombing.

“My mother talked me into going to visit that family and I spent the next few days visiting with them,” said Weant. “It was unbelievable, even though they lost their son they took me in. And to this day they all treat me like a brother, it’s incredible.”

Sometime later, Weant heard of another gold star family, the family of Donald Giblin, a machine gunner with Alpha Company. This was the Marine who sat in the staircase with Kovach in Beirut. His brother, Sgt. Timothy Giblin was a radio operator killed in the BLT building.

Donald accompanied his brother’s body home and Weant traveled all the way from Connecticut to Providence, RI. He spent a week with the family.

These visits were the first of many, and for Weant, were some of the hardest but most rewarding experiences he’d had in his life.

“It was an amazing feeling the way those families treated me,” said Weant “From then on it was all about the support of the Gold Star Families.”

Weant was not the only Marine from Beirut who shared a feeling of obligation to the gold star families.

For Kovach filling these gaps have been hugely important throughout his life, “all the things they were missing, we stood there and we filled that gap,” said Kovach.

“The Gold Star Families were missing something,” said Kovach. “Not just their Marine but the things that come after the Marine Corps; a husband, a father, an uncle, a grandfather.”

Since Beirut

Over the last 40 years Weant, Kovach, and many other veterans of Beirut and the members of the gold star families remain close. These Marines travel great distances keeping up the bonds and camaraderie alive, visiting each other when they are ill, attending funerals, and just generally supporting each other.

Weant and Kovach have been best friends since infantry training and continued to look after the gold star families together with the other surviving Marines from Beirut. The veterans hold a memorial service in October in Jacksonville, N.C., every year in honor of the Marines that were lost. At the fifth annual memorial service for the Marines lost in the bombings at Beirut, Weant and the other surviving Marines really started connecting with a lot of the Gold Star Family members because there were so many gathered there.

“Getting close with these families really helped with our healing, but it was more so important for the Gold Star Families for us to be part of their families,’ said Weant. “It was an amazing feeling the way they took us in.”

Among those present at this memorial was the family of Sergeant William Pollard, a personnel clerk who was killed in the BLT building. His wife Margaret Pollard brought with her nine-year-old Stacey Pollard, who had to grow up without a father. Weant and Kovach became close with the family visiting anytime they came through the town they lived in, as well as the yearly memorial service. These Marines would eventually extend their care and affection for Stacey’s oldest son, William Smith.

“We always looked at it as standing in the gap, he couldn’t be there to be a grandfather so we did,” said Kovach. “We talked on the phone, wrote letters, saw him several times throughout the year.”

Margaret unfortunately passed away a few years ago and the bond Weant and Kovach had with the family only grew stronger. For Stacey Pollard, being a gold star family member is very important and she eventually became a board member for The Beirut Veterans of America fraternity. The goal of the fraternity is to continue telling the story of Beirut so that the Marines who served there are never forgotten.

Smith spent a lot of time around Weant and Kovach as well as the other veterans of Beirut, especially during the memorial services. Every year the surviving Marines get together in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Express in Jacksonville and tell their war stories.

“William loves to talk to these guys, he always asks them questions about what the Marine Corps is like, he wanted to know anything he could about his grandpa,” said Stacey. “He loved hearing stories from them, joking with them, and they basically treat him like a nephew.”

Smith has attended almost every year since he was six.

"What impacted me most from these Marines was the camaraderie, after all these years they were still close friends,” said Smith. “All these Marines, some who stood side by side in Beirut and others who never saw each other still share a close bond.”

In Oct. 2023, the Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, now nicknamed the ‘Beirut Battalion,’ celebrated The Marine Corps 248th birthday. For the birthday the battalion hosted a ball and had several Beirut veterans and family members in attendance including Weant, Kovach, and the Pollard family.

During the ball, the Battalion Commander, Lt Col. William Kerrigan, brought the attention to the Pollard family and announced that Smith would be enlisting in the Marine Corps the following year as an infantryman. When the announcement was made, Smith received a standing ovation from all in attendance.

“It was breathtaking, to know that he is carrying on his grandfather’s honor,” said Stacey. “The pride that everybody had in him for choosing to enlist was amazing.”

“Every Marine in that room stood up and gave him applause and I stood up and did the same,” said Kovach.

“He wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, he like a surrogate son to me and I was blown away,” said Weant “It was probably one of the best days of my life.”

Kerrigan as well as many of the Marines in the unit told Smith that he will always have a place in their battalion should he choose to go there.

Boot Camp

Smith arrived to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for recruit training in March. In the beginning of training Smith did not believe he would think of his grandfather, but that changed quickly. When things started to get hard, Smith began to question his decisions and would pray that his grandfather was watching over him.

“Every time I thought I couldn’t get through this, I thought to myself ‘you currently have got this uniform on that he died in so I better give it my all before I say I can’t do this,’” said Smith.

On May 18, Smith completed the Crucible and received a special surprise when he stood before the Iwo Jima monument to receive his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

Smith was in the front of the formation and was shocked when Weant and Kovach stood in front of him.

“Out of the corner of my eye I saw them. I thought ‘there is no way that’s them,” said Smith. “They pointed at me and smiled, and I almost broke down in tears.”

When Weant and Kovach joined the Marines, the ceremony had not been implemented, but that does not mean it had any less of an emotional impact.

“When they platoon marched in William was in the front and when he saw us I saw a little smile appear on his face, and he stood taller and straighter,” said Weant. “It gave him a little boost of energy and pride—and God you could see the pride in him.”

Normally the handover of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is an honor reserved for the drill instructors of the platoon but in exceptional circumstances exemptions are made. Weant was the one to give Smith his EGA, an incredible emotional moment for the both of them.

“Being the one to hand him his EGA, I had a hard time composing myself,” said Weant. It filled me with pride, it was incredible.
Standing right next to Weant was his best friend Kovach who had one brief message for Smith.

“I did everything in my power to try and hold in my emotions, but I couldn’t hold it in so I teared up, said Kovach. “I looked right in his eyes and said one thing, ‘Wear it well.’”

Smith graduated recruit training on May, 31 and has hopes of following in his grandfather’s footsteps—by serving as an infantryman in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

NEWS INFO
Date Taken: 06.05.2024
Date Posted: 06.05.2024 10:37
Story ID: 473097
Location: PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, US
Web Views: 72
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This work, Filling the Gap, by LCpl William Horsley, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.

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To all members whom are available for their golf outing. If you scan the QR code you should find the application for a foursome. This golf outing will also be honoring Gen Gray.

"Respect those you are about to lead. If you ever are inclined to put anything except your mission above those magnificent people who ask for so little and yet who give so much, if you ever change that from your number-one priority, you have got to leave our Corps. And if you cannot make a dedicated commitment to that idea tonight and when you join us, then you should not."

General Alfred M. Gray
(June 22, 1928 – March 20, 2024)
29th Commandant of the Marine Corps

On January 16th at 1:00am, Marc (aka "Bent Nickel") was involved in a horrific traffic accident. Marc is a semi-truck driver that drives a very special truck with his cab, that he created, that holds the names of the Marines that were killed in the Beirut Bombing of 1983. The truck is completely totaled. But thankfully, Marc survived.

U.S. Embassy Beirut Remembers [Updated]

Photos added of Waiting Room and Cedar Trees

This October U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon is conducting a series of events that will highlight the sacrifices of those who both served and died in Beirut. It will also send a message to all who visit the Embassy that the mission to help the people of Lebanon continues 40 years later.
"Beirut Veterans of America” and “Beirut Veterans of France" join together during this 40th Anniversary to remember those who died in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983. The 58 French Paratroopers, and 241 American servicemen who died on this day were part of a UN Multinational Peacekeeping force composed of British, Italian, French, and American troops.

The Rhode Island Nine Wreath Laying Ceremony

40th Beirut Bombing Observance

Monday 10:00 am 10/23/2023 - Annual remembrance ceremony to honor Rhode Island's fallen Marines "The Rhode Island Nine".

This year's guest speaker will be Naval War College student Major Patrick Hassett USMC.
Please do NOT call the American Legion for ticket info, they have nothing to do with tickets! THE DINNER IS SOLD OUT! If you purchased tickets online, they will be provided when you check in. Information regarding the BVA Muster/Reception is at the end of this email.
Anyone interested in learning more about all those who served and died in Beirut from 1982-1984 are invited to come to the field at Lejeune Memorial Gardens (Next to the Beirut Memorial). There will be a brief program along with a time for reflection on Sunday October 22, 2023 at 1:00 pm.
Annual Meeting will not take place on October 22nd in Jacksonville, but on a date yet to be determined in November or December. This meeting will occur virtually online in an interactive format.

Marathon Effort!

Soldier and Team Carry on Marine Marathon Tradition

Mike Chard, a special forces soldier who served in Beirut from June 1983 to April 1984, will carry the BVA banner in the 2023 Marine Corps Marathon, as he has done every five years since 2008.
Dickinson College and the Clarke Forum For Contemporary Issues will host:
"The Beirut Barracks Bombing of 1983: The Stories that America Needs to Hear"
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation 20th Annual Capital Area Golf Tournament

In Honor of BLT 1/8 Marines and Corpsmen Killed in the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing

On September 25, 2023 at the Army Navy Country Club this, the 40th Anniversary year, the Capital Area Golf Tournament will honor the memory of the 220 Marines of 1st Battalion/8th Marines that lost their lives on 23 October 1983 when a suicide truck bomber attacked the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
It’s Memorial Day, a time for our Country to remember… we Remember every day. And always Remember their Families.
Forty years after the bombing, the United States remains committed to its efforts to defeat terrorists wherever they are. The American people will never forget those who lost their lives while pursuing peace, promoting human rights, and advancing fundamental freedoms.
On March 15, 2023 at 10 am Charlotte County will host a special groundbreaking event located at the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in Port Charlotte FL to begin construction of the Beirut Peacekeepers Tower.
Gen. Al Gray at 35th
Recorded for Broadcast on G10TV & Streamed Live on Facebook @jacksonvillenc.gov @ camp.lejeune

2:00PM, Sunday, October 23, 2022 Lejeune Memorial Gardens

A Time to Heal - Beirut Peacekeeper Tower Update

By Connie Mack (Retired Senator - FL)

Soon, construction will begin on the Beirut Peacekeepers Memorial Tower, in Port Charlotte, Florida, a town recently impacted by hurricane Ian, at a park named after one of the Marines who died in the Beirut explosion, Cpl. William R. Gaines, Jr. When completed, the centerpiece of the park will be this symbolic 40-foot tower simulating the bombing. Large panels on each floor of the tower will educate visitors, prompting reflection and remembrance.

CLICK image to enlarge!

BLUF: From 21-23 Oct 2022 at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines will host a 241 mile relay run to memorialize the lives lost during the Beirut Bombing on 23 Oct 1983.  Runners can sign up for a time slot via the following link:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yoPb-lz_ppSovrQAsawimfsoZ9t-KxbVCrYGOognXGA/edit

or 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yoPb-lz_ppSovrQAsawimfsoZ9t-KxbVCrYGOognXGA/edit#gid=1109016379

SOM

21 OCT

1130: Opening Remarks/Ceremony

1150: First runners depart

22 OCT

0800: Sync with leadership and Volunteer Cadre

1200: Barbecue Lunch (hamburgers and hotdogs) provided by USO (with BVA support!)

23 OCT

0000-0330: Run ops continue

0330-0400: Closing Ceremony, last mile at 0450

0430-0500: Cleanup and exfil

SATURDAY
22 OCT 2022
1100-1300
At the Lejeune Memorial Gardens
109 Montford Landing Rd,
Jacksonville, NC 28540

<-- Click the image at left to enlarge!

Please join Strength & Honor Motorcycle Club in honoring the sacrifices of the 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers who lost their lives on the morning of 23 October 1983 while conducting peace-keeping operations in Beirut Lebanon.

Saturday 22 October 2022 Registration begins at 0930 a.m. All bikes must be registered by 1030 a.m. Riders $20 & Passengers $10 (All Bikes Welcome) Includes Free Memorial T-shirt for the first 100 bikes to register Leave New River Harley Davidson, 2394 Wilmington Highway, Jacksonville 28546 at 11a.m. 

USO Beirut Memorial Walk
Help Support the Jacksonville USO - they’ve always supported BVA! With COVID and building issues, they have been unable to raise funds to support important programs, like assisting service personnel and providing Thanksgiving and Christmas meals!

2021 Beirut Veterans of America, Inc., Annual Meeting Canceled.

Private Vigil for Next of Kin, Veterans and Family Members to go Forward

Private Vigil for Next of Kin, Veterans and Family Members to go Forward

The Marine Corps Installations East and City of Jacksonville have again decided to hold this year’s annual Beirut Memorial Remembrance virtually. The Memorial will be closed to the public for the 1030 Observance. This follows the cancellation of Oktoberfest and Patriots’ Day events in Jacksonville. Those decisions were made due to the increasing spread of COVID-19 cases in the Community. Based on the above and the restrictions required, the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Beirut Veterans of America, Inc., is canceled.
We have lost several of our BVA family this year. One of our long serving board members Bill Yontz passed away in March.
Mary Ellen Jackowski, one our Gold Star Mothers passed away in April. You can learn more details about them at the Final Muster section of our website at https://www.beirutveterans.org/final-muster.
Bike Ride 9
Please join Strength & Honor Motorcycle Club in honoring the sacrifices of the 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers who lost their lives on the morning of 23 October 1983 while conducting peace-keeping operations in Beirut Lebanon.
The BVA is proud to announce its support to build an historical educational legacy that will not only fulfill the BVA mission and purpose, but honor and recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and those who served, supported and advanced the mission.

Please join us at www.beirutpeacekeepers.org today. Only we can preserve our history. The time has come.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Todd Young (R-IN) in introducing a resolution that would designate today as a national day of remembrance for members of the United States Armed Forces who were killed or injured by the terrorist attack on the United States Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983.
Retired Marines that were present during the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon tell their story at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens on Oct. 21, 2020. A ceremony is held annually to honor the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and and three Army Soldiers that died on Oct. 23, 1983. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Cpl. Stephanie Corona-Morales)

Annual Beirut Memorial Observance to be Virtual

Safety of Participants of Key Concern with Keeping the Pledge to Remember

The Wall
Breaking News – 9/24/2020 @ 1300 hours EST: The City of Jacksonville publishes a Press Release concerning the 37th Annual Memorial Observance scheduled for 1030 hours on October 23, 2020. The Beirut Veterans of America’s Board and Officers are closely watching these developments, with more information possibly released the week of September 28th. This may include an announcement of changes in social distancing policies (NC Phases) by the Governor of North Carolina. We will keep everyone advised as best we can, and as quickly as we can.
The base COMMSTRAT (Combat Camera/Public Affairs) for Camp Lejeune, NC and are looking to put a video piece together for the Beirut memorial anniversary this year.

They are looking for contacts of any Beirut Veterans, includes all, navy and army that were there during the Beirut attack and live near Jacksonville, North Carolina. If you live in the area and are interested in assisting them by doing an interview for the video please contact:
There were eight Rochester area Marines in Beirut that fateful morning in 1983. LCpl Steve Frederico, LCpl Jeff Lancie, Pfc Craig Stockton, Pfc Kevin Hayes, LCpl Brad McLaughlin, SSgt Alexander Ortega, Cpl Michael Zawacki and Cpl John McCall. They were deployed to Beirut Lebanon as members of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit that was serving as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force. Three of these Marines, Ortega, McCall and Stockton, were killed in Lebanon.
Strength and Honor Motorcycle Club plans to have its 5th Annual Beirut Memorial Ride honoring the sacrifices of the 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers who lost their lives on the morning of 23 October 1983 while conducting peace-keeping operations in Beirut Lebanon.
The Virginia War Memorial celebrated the completion of a nearly two-and-a-half-year expansion Saturday. February 29th. The dedication marked the expanded Shrine of Memory - Global War on Terrorism and Beyond, which honors the 175 Virginians killed in the War on Terror.

Email your request with sizes & quantities to:

[email protected]

You will be contacted to confirm we have your sizes.

Once you receive our confirmation email, you can Pay at: https://beirutveterans.org/donate. For a limited time only, add $5.00 Postage & Handling for 1 shirt, $8.00 for 2-3 shirts, and $10 for 4-5 shirts. Email us for orders of more than 5 shirts! Put "T-shirts" in the tribute/memory line. You will receive a confirmation email once it sumbits.

BVA Shirts    35th Rem. No Date Lg Emblem
35th Remembrance Shirt BVA Shirt No Date Large BVA Emblem Shirt
$20.00 ea. 60C / 40P 60C / 40P 100 Cot
Frt & Back Frt & Back Frt only
Size
XS $15.00 14    
S $15.00 8 1  
M     2 9
L     3 10
XL     9 5
2XL    
3XL   8 1  
4XL   4    
5XL     1  

The BVA has partnered with Galli Apparel to create Beirut Veterans of America logo approved customized flight jackets for all military branches. Below are just two example jackets for Marine and Navy, but they can also produce Army or Air Force jackets. THE COST FOR THE JACKETS SHOWN BELOW IS $160 Other jacket styles, colors, and patches can be added for additional cost if requested.

Shown below is the MA-1 Flight Jacket features a ribbed collar, 100% Nylon water repellent outer shell, Poly fiberfill lining and 4 front slash pockets. Jacket has an extra full cut and is available in sizes from Small through 3XL, sizes and colors do vary. Adult Sizes: XS-3XL. COLORS: Black, Navy, Sage Green

If you are interested in having a custom jacket made PLEASE CALL 845-226-7305 TO ORDER Their work is very customized, for the best possible service it is best to call. You can see examples of other jackets and patch options at their website at http://gallishirts.com/id324.htm

The Beirut Memorial Ruck, open to 300 participants, will begin at the Jacksonville Beirut Memorial and travel along the greenway to Camp Lejeune’s Main gate and back to the Memorial. This route parallels the original memorial trees originally planted in honor of the fallen. The ruck is 10.23 miles, representing the month and day of the bombing. Participants are encouraged to carry a weighted pack though it is not mandatory; the participation fee is $35.

Wellington LTD is proud to announce its partnership with the BVA.  Together we have combined to produce a custom engraved 1911 .45 ACP pistol that captures the legacy of all the comrades who served.  Utilizing 24 Karat Gold, Nickel and Black Copper, the different layers of plating bring out the iconic images.  This type of firearm is to become a family heirloom and speaks to the motto “Our First Duty is to Remember”.  Not only is the legacy of brave souls captured in steel but it also gives back to the BVA.  Wellington LTD has pledged a donation for every pistol sold to the BVA. This supports the organization to continue its mission.

A Wellington LTD representative will be at the BVA Annual meeting with a display pistol for those interested in ordering a custom pistol. You can see more pictures and get additional details at https://wellingtonltd.com/beirut-veterans-of-america/

Spyglass Section of Tower
On February 23, 2019 at 10:00 am the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners will formally dedicate the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park at 20499 Edgewater Drive, Port Charlotte, FL. All who wish to attend this dedication are welcome.

October 23rd, 1130 hours after Our Main Ceremony

2/8 will be holding an Alumni Day

CP will be Open, Static Display, tours... 2/8 gear available for sale!

LtCol Daniel J. Gaskell `... looks forward to meeting our heroes - SF...'

5 years ago in 2013 for the 30th Anniversary of the Beirut Bombing, Paul "Doc" Doolittle walked 273 miles from Oct. 1 to the 23rd in honor of the names on the Beirut Memorial Wall in Jacksonville, NC. It's now 2018 and for the 35th Anniversary he's walking again.
Today marks 35 years that a truck bomb was detonated at the US Embassy in Beirut Lebanon. This tragic event ended the lives of 63 and changed the lives of many more.
We must Always Remember the sacrifices of that day.
Semper Fidelis
Bryan Ayres
President
BVA

All Members are invited to log in using the link below. You can nominate officers and board members and view the minutes from our last meeting on Oct. 22, 2017.

Click to Login

PLEASE NOTE: You will need to know your Member ID to login.

If we have a valid email on file for your membership you can request your Member ID and reset your password using the Reset Password link.

Any questions about accessing the portal should be directed to [email protected].

The main ceremony located in Lejeune Memorial Garden began at 1030 on Monday, October 23, 2017.

This event was managed by The City of Jacksonville in cooperation with Marine Corps Installation East-Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, & the Beirut Memorial Advisory Board.

Program Events:

  • Musical Prelude - 2d Marine Division Band

  • Master of Ceromonies - Ron Bower; Beirut Memorial Advisory Board

  • Invocation - Chris Phillips; Pastor, River Life Church

  • March of the Colors - Second Battalion, Eight Marine Regiment

  • National Anthem - 2d Marine Division Band

  • Welcome - Sammy Phillips; Mayor, City of Jacksonville

  • Guest Speaker - HMCS Darrell Gibson, USN, Ret, Beirut Veteran

  • Musical Interlude - 2n Marine Division Band

  • Beirut Memorial Observance Address - Lt General Robert F Hedelund, USMC, Commanding General, II Marine Expetionary Force

  • Special Music - Prayer of the Children, Arranged by Andrea Klouse, My Country 'Tis of Thee, Samuel F Smith

    White Oak High School Chamber Choir, Directed by Hillary Goodson-Spear

  • Laying of Wreaths

  • Rifle Salute - Second Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment

  • Taps - 2d Marine Division Band

  • Retire the Colors - Second Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment

  • Benediction - Lt. Commander Ulysses Ubalde, USN, Chaplain, Eighth Marine Regiment

  • Musical Postlude - 2d Marine Division Band
Oct. 22, SUNDAY 2017

1500 -1800 Annual BVA Membership Meeting: USO

1800-2200: Beirut Veterans Get Together: Holiday Inn Express

Oct 23, MONDAY 2017

0600: Candlelight Ceremony at Memorial: Camp Johnson

1030: Remembrance Ceremony at Memorial: Camp Johnson

1400: Marine Corps League Devil Dogs Ceremony—Camp Geiger Circle

(NOTE** Access to Camp Geiger is through MCAS New River Main Gate)

1800-2200: Hospitality Suite: Beirut Veterans and Families: Holiday Inn Express

Thanks to all the BVA members who were able to attend the annual BVA meeting at the USO in Jacksonville, NC on October 22, 2017!

More details and updates on the meeting will be shared soon.

Glenn Dolphin
On Sunday February 19, 2017 one of our Marine Brothers and a long standing Board Member of the Beirut Veterans of America passed away.

Glenn Dolphin served as a 1st LT in the role of Asst Communications Officer for HQ 24th MAU during its deployment in Beirut from May to November of 1983. He authored an account of his experience in Beirut in a book titled 24 MAU 1983. In the book he shared his heart, humor, and commitment to duty.
Please join Strength & Honor Motorcycle Club in honoring the sacrifices of the 241 Marines Sailors and Soldiers who lost their lives on the morning of 23 October 1983 while conducting peace-keeping operations in Beirut Lebanon.

Registration begins at 0900 at New River Harley Davidson.
I must have this information no later then Sunday evening October 16th 2016. Anyone not submitting this information will not be sponsored and will not be able to get a base temporary pass.

The Comfort Suites, Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express, and Mainstay Suites all have blocks set up for Beirtut Veterans and families.

Comfort Suites, Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express are honoring the $65.00 plus tax per night amount for kings or doubles. Mainstay Hotel is honoring 1 Queen, $60/night; 2 Queens, $70/night. See form below for more details on room availability.

All,
I hope this finds everyone back at home and settled back safely into their routines no matter where you live. I’d like to say thank you to all of you who traveled to Jacksonville and to those who arranged and held separate Remembrance Ceremonies in other locations. If you weren’t able to attend a Remembrance I’m sure you were with us in spirit.

Congratulations go out to our new appointees and Board Member. They are:
Richard Truman ; New Membership Chair
Jeff Hamman; Root Scoop Editor
Stacey Pollard; Board of Directors

I look forward to working with all of you. Your willingness to step up and answer the call of service to the BVA speaks volumes.

A special thank you again this year to Dan Joy whose tireless efforts and leadership set an example for us all.

Be well.

Semper Fidelis,

Bryan Ayres
BVA, President