35 years ago our worlds were turned upside down. Things would never be as they once were. Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, and friends were lost. Scars were formed that could never heal. The young men that returned home were not the same men that deployed. The Beirut Veterans of America Organization is charged with ensuring the world never forgets. The week of the 23rd we did just that.
Veterans, Gold Star Families, and friends came together to honor our fallen heroes, to support one another, and to reminisce about the “good ol’ days”. Through tears and laughter, the already strong bond that holds us together grew even stronger.
This was a special service as we heard from the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Neller, and the 29thCommandant, the much loved and well revered General Gray. If you did not get to attend, you can view the service here
This year the BVA hosted the 35th Memorial Remembrance Dinner at Goettge Field House on Camp LeJeune. There were 750 tickets sold to the event. The event started with toasts to families and fallen brothers. The Founders Award was presented to Dan Joy. Ed “Doc” Brown was also recognized for the walk that he did to bring awareness to our fallen. General Al Gray was the keynote speaker.
Doc: I was assigned as a Hospital Corpsman HM3 to the MSSG24 MED/DN DET in support of the Marine Amphibious Unit MAU and the BLT 1/8 from May to Nov 1983. While assigned to this deployment late, I had the fortunate opportunity to befriend several Marines while deployed and on liberty.
Alicia: Why did you do the walk and where did you walk from and to?
Doc: Over the course of the past several years while attending Memorial and Veterans Day observances I became aware that most people fail to remember the events of Beirut unless they were specifically affected by either being there or by sacrificing some that was.
Alicia: Are there any significant stories you would like to share from your walk?
Doc: There were so many stories along the path I could share, but the two that reinforced my efforts while walking were when W George Thompson a survivor expressed an interest in walking with me a month before I started my journey and kept commenting that he would walk with me. A retired Charleston Police Officer and 3rd floor survivor of the Beirut bombing! His wife Karen dropped George off with me in Mount Pleasant and we walked for 4 miles putting his new knee to work. Honored and humbled on this day to have such a man and his wife walk with us.
Alicia: Are there plans for future events?
Alicia: I took a photo of you at the memorial and you depicted what I think we were all feeling. Can you explain what you were thinking/feeling at that time?
Doc: That photo was taken when I was remembering the sunrise services and families that had made their journey to the memorial for the first time. Two families, in particular, Brett Croft and Richard Barrett of Target Acquisition Battery both rode the USS Portland with me and both were brought to life by photos and stories from their shipmates and brothers. The term "brotherhood/families" has been demonstrated beyond DNA in this group.
Alicia: Do you come to the memorial in Jacksonville every year? Why do you feel it’s important to be there?
Alicia: Any additional info you would like to share?
Doc: Follow us on my FB page Beirut Memorial Walk.
The BVA Meeting was held October 22nd at the USO. This year it was a full house. Margaret Pollard informed the membership that the Beirut Memorial Scholarship is up and running. There will be a committee that will meet regularly to set the criteria and amounts for the scholarship. If you are interested in serving on this committee, please contact Margaret.
Elections were held this year for four board positions as Randy Gaddo was moved to Emeritus Board Member status. The four elected board members are Rick Cunningham, Bill Yontz, Jack McDonald, and David Seelye.
With the sun shining brightly at Camp Geiger Monument Circle, a small group of former Battalion 1/8 Veterans and families of those lost in the October 23, 1983 attack gathered for a brief remembrance ceremony. This annual event at Camp Geiger is hosted by the local chapter of the Military Order of the Devil Dogs.
This year's speaker was the former 12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Harold G. Overstreet. Standing in front of the monument honoring Marines who died in Lebanon during 1982-84 with his trademark cowboy hat, Sergeant Major Overstreet shared how the memory of those who died in Beirut taught lessons that impacted how the Marine Corps operated and fought much like other historic events and battles have done.
After the remembrance, the veterans and family members walked through the circle under the large waving American flag as the Rolling Thunder saluted them for their service and sacrifice. This small but important ceremony at Camp Geiger, which is still home to 1/8 Battalion, is part of the tradition to remember the peacekeepers who died in Beirut.