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thedrifter
10-24-08, 06:17 AM
Veterans pay tribute to fallen
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October 23, 2008 - 6:35PM
JENNIFER HLAD

In 1984, the ceremony drew fewer than 10 people.

This year, the number was closer to 250.

"We vowed to the families that we would continue it every year," said George Barrows of the Military Order of Devil Dogs. "This is fantastic."

The organization's Beirut memorial ceremony, held at the memorial aboard Camp Geiger, was the second ceremony held Thursday to honor the victims and veterans of the peacekeeping mission in Beirut. The organization has been hosting the ceremony each year since the memorial's dedication in June of 1984.

"This is a hallowed day," Col. John Love, commander of 8th Marine Regiment, told the crowd.

Oct. 23 is a day when "the purest form of the tradition that our society know as the family reunion happens here at Camp Lejeune," he said, when the families of victims come together with Beirut veterans to "memorialize, remember and rededicate."

"The strength of the group is greater than the strength each of you possess as individuals," he said.

On that one day in 1983, he said, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, lost 241 men - more than the entire 8th Marine Regiment has lost in combat in the 25 years since, Love said.

The bombing "brought the entire nation to its knees," he said. "That was my generation's Pearl Harbor."

"After 25 years, there are many who are still wounded from that tragic event," he said, referring to the families and survivors who bear "deep emotional scars."

The sacrifices and service of those Marines, sailors and soldiers must not be forgotten, he said, to make sure the men did not die in vain.

"They placed the needs of their country and their fellow Marines above their individual needs," Love said. "They were servants to our nation. ... To reflect is not enough. We must continue to carry the mantle forward."

Contact interactive content editor Jennifer Hlad at jhlad@freedomenc.com or 910-219-8467.

Ellie