As I drove down the highway near the coast of North Carolina, I glanced out my window, and noticed a beautiful granite engraved stone wall with the words”Beirut Memorial” on it. I had driven that road before, but never before noticed the memorial site. I wondered what it was, but drove on, and soon forgot about it.
A few weeks later, I passed the engraved stone wall again, and was preparing to research the memorial to enrich my education about the United States Marine Corps, and some of the men and women who have fallen for our country.
According to the main Marine Corps website, on March 24, 1983, the 24th Marines Amphibious Unit, stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was given orders to Beirut, Lebanon to serve as a peacemaking force. The Muslim and Christian communities were in conflict at the time, and the Lebanese government convinced the United States government to let the United States Marines Corps do the job.
Almost seven months to the day later, on October 23, 1983, a non-Lebanese truck filled with explosives destroyed the First battalion, 8th Marines Headquarters building. The terrorist attack killed a total of 241 Marines, soldiers, and Sailors.
The community of Jacksonville, North Carolina banded together to build the memorial for the devastating attack victims, with many local companies donating key parts of the memorial.
Exactly three years later, on October 23, 1986, the completed memorial was dedicated.
I drove home from the memorial site at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, wondering what it would have been like to attend the original memorial service. In 1983, were terrorist attacks a fear in the back of everyone’s mind, like they are today? Did they seem real? I wasn’t sure.
It was raining that afternoon, and the highway near Camp Johnson was flooded. That area of North Carolina is roughly fifteen feet above sea level, meaning nothing really drains or dries quickly. Ahead of me, a car had stopped in the middle of an intersection, while the light was still green. It appeared as though the driver was allowing other cars to enter the highway into his lane. Perhaps it was a flooded area, and those drivers could not turn directly into the first lane.
When I looked more closely, I noticed the long line of cars had their hazard lights on, and I quickly realized that it was a funeral procession leaving Camp Johnson. How fitting, that I was preparing to write this blog post, and I witnessed a motorcade for a Marine or soldier who had given his life for our country. I quietly said a prayer, and it almost brought tears to my eyes that a veteran had passed away, even though it happens too often now, as our country is at war.
I drove slowly in the farthest lane, wondering what I was supposed to do. I had never driven along side a motorcade, and I didn’t know if I was even allowed to. Some drivers disrespectfully sped ahead, some were possibly unaware of what was going on.
Once home, I looked online to see if I could find who the veteran was. I cannot be certain, but I think it was a memorial service for GySgt. Glenn Jimmie White (Retired) who was 84 years old. White joined the United States Marine Corps when he was 18 years old, and attended a segregated boot camp, specifically for blacks. He served in World War II, and spent 27 years as an active duty service member.
What an honor it was to spend a moment to honor this man, who dedicated his whole life to the military. I was grateful to spend my rainy afternoon remembering the sacrifices of the Beirut service members, and GySgt. White. I want them to know that years later, their sacrifice has not been forgotten.