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thedrifter
08-21-04, 10:07 AM
August 20, 2004

Lejeune Marines hope to rename bridge in honor of Osprey victims

By C. Mark Brinkley
Times staff writer


Barring any unforeseen problems, thousands of folks traveling through Jacksonville, N.C., will soon pass over a new memorial to the 23 Marines killed in MV-22 Osprey crashes four years ago. Local officials have petitioned the North Carolina Department of Transportation to rename a small bridge in the center of Jacksonville in honor of Maj. Brooks S. Gruber, an Osprey pilot who was among 19 Marines killed in an April 2000 crash in Marana, Ariz.
In December 2000, a second Osprey crash in the woods just north of Jacksonville killed all four Marines aboard.

The bridge isn’t the largest in town, but it is on Henderson Drive, in the heart of a commercial area where it can be seen by thousands each day. If approved, the new bridge sign would read “In Memory of Maj. Brooks S. Gruber — To Honor USMC Osprey Pioneers 2000,” thereby including all victims of Osprey crashes that year.

“For both the military and civilian citizens of Jacksonville, I would like the memorial bridge to represent hope for the future, courage to live dreams, and service to honor community and country,” wrote Connie Gruber, the pilot’s widow, in an Aug. 4 letter presented to the city council. “To basically live life more gratefully, remembering the sacrifices of others and the precious gift of each new day.”

That same night, the board voted unanimously to petition the state for a name change.

”We expect they will,” said Jacksonville Mayor Jan Slagle. ”It doesn’t seem to have anything attached to it that’s too controversial.”

Given the local connection between the town and the aircraft, such a memorial would be right at home here. These days, the skies over Jacksonville are buzzing with tiltrotors, as testing continues on the Corps’ new warbird at nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.

On Aug. 11, Navy Secretary Gordon England paid a visit to the base to fly in the new aircraft, becoming the highest-ranking military official to ride in the helicopter-airplane hybrid.

Gruber, a Boston native, met his wife while stationed in Jacksonville in 1990. Mrs. Gruber, who lived in the town in her youth and still has family ties to the area, was working as a teacher aboard Camp Lejeune.

The couple planned to retire here after his military career, and Connie Gruber still lives in Jacksonville with the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Brooke. Named after her father, she was only six months old when he was killed.

But Connie Gruber didn’t want the tribute to serve only his memory.

”I felt that was the thing to do,” Gruber said during an Aug. 19 telephone interview. ”To honor all of their memories, since they were so closely connected.”

The city was happy to oblige.

”We do love our Marines,” Slagle said. ”This is just one more way we could show that.”

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-313619.php


Ellie