Crowd gathers to remember Beirut bombing
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    Crowd gathers to remember Beirut bombing

    Crowd gathers to remember Beirut bombing

    By Adelina Colbert - Adelina.colbert@JDNews.com
    Published: Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 17:08 PM.


    It may have been decades since the nation witnessed the brutal bombing in Beirut, but no one present at the Beirut Memorial this week has forgotten it.
    Approximately 600 people attended the 31st Beirut Memorial Observance ceremony held Thursday at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville. The day marking the anniversary of the Oct. 23, 1983, attack on Marine barracks in Lebanon, began with a private candlelight ceremony for Beirut families and veterans in the early hours of the morning followed by a public ceremony at the memorial and then a wreath laying ceremony at the Beirut Memorial aboard Camp Geiger.
    Kevin Jiggetts, a Beirut survivor and his daughter, Courtney, said they made the 5-hour trip to Jacksonville from Virginia for the ceremony this year.
    “She’s heard the stories a million times and she’s proud that her dad is a Marine,” Jiggetts said. “It’s very important to share this with her.”
    Courtney, who was visiting the Beirut Memorial for the first time, said her father often shared stories of his time in the service with her.
    “He emphasizes all the time how his Marine Corps brothers are some of the best people he’s ever met and that he wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything,” said Courtney.
    Jiggetts, who was a 20-year-old lance corporal in Beirut at the time of the attack, said he was on the third floor of the barracks when the explosion happened. The blast, described to be the largest non-nuclear explosion on the face of the earth at that time, killed 241 service members, mostly Marines from Camp Lejeune.
    “It’s a sober reminder of how precious life is and it can be taken away at any moment,” said Jiggetts. “Just the day before, yesterday … 31 years ago, everyone was alive. We were Marines, we were sailors, we were soldiers and we were coming home.”
    U.S. troops were sent to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force to a nation in the midst of religious and ethnic instability. But as tensions rose, foreign troops began to be perceived as an enemy group and in the early morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a terrorist-driven truck, filled with explosives, detonated at the barracks.
    Elisa Camara, the sister of fallen Beirut Marine Sgt. Mecot Camara, was the first family member to give an address at the Beirut ceremonies.
    “I wanted to be here on behalf of him and those that died that day and represent them and let them know that they are loved and the families are loved,” Camara said.
    During her speech, Camara emotionally detailed her day 31 years ago to the crowd. Camara, who was a 17-year-old college student at the time, said she was distraught when the news broke and was already on her way back home.
    “I never dreamed (my brother) would have died there … ,” she said. “The Marines came down the sidewalk; they were there to notify me … I didn’t even speak to them.”
    On Thursday, Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips also spoke to the crowd, repeating the pledge the city has vowed to take following the devastating bombing.
    “Jacksonville will never forget to remember,” said Phillips. “Jacksonville will never forget the debt we owe to them for reminding us of the importance of a supportive civilian community for a grateful, brave and deserving military community.”
    Maj. Gen. Richard Simcock II, deputy commanding general for 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, along with Col. Yori Escalante, deputy commander of Marine Corps Installations East, both gave remarks on behalf of the Marine Corps.
    Camara said she hopes younger Marines today will remember and “appreciate” the legacy that has been left for them.
    “These Marines need to know that they have worked hard to earn that title and with it comes a sacredness and a bond to the ones that have fallen for them,” she said.
    Jiggetts said Marines also carry the responsibility of protecting the men to the left and right of them.
    “If you know anything about Marines, about the Marine Corps, we are a band of brothers,” he said. “They would have given their lives for me, and I for them, and that’s how tight we are.”
    Cpl. Joseph Ortiz, a 24-year-old active-duty member of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, at Camp Lejeune said this was his first time attending and participating the ceremony.
    “It’s definitely something to remember and not be forgotten,” said Ortiz.
    Jiggetts said the observance ceremonies held each year by the city should always continue because it is a way for him and others to honor fallen comrades.
    “For the most part America and the bulk of America they have forgotten about this,” he said. “The City of Jacksonville has not forgotten as we the family and friends, we have not forgotten. We live this every day, and I’m glad that Jacksonville remembers every year. “
    “It’s about paying my respects and ... letting them know that I miss them and I love them,” he said.
    For Jiggetts, the memory of the bombing, of his fallen brothers and of Beirut is something he will carry forever.
    “I served with these men, 241 plus, the greatest guys that I’ve ever served with,” he said.

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  2. #2
    RIP Marines, Semper Fidelis.


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    Trying to get Beirut veterans status changed to Combat Service. Anyone else on board?


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