October 24, 2008
N.J. Gold Star mom helps pay tribute to Marines killed at Beirut barracks

gannett new jersey

A Gold Star mother from Moorestown bought an oversized balsam wreath and 273 gold roses for her trip to Jacksonville, N.C.. to a military memorial ceremony.

The wreath was placed at the Beirut Memorial on the Marine base at Camp Lejeune Thursday on the 25th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks during the Beirut Crisis on Oct. 23, 1983.

Families and friends of the 270 Marines, soldiers and sailors who died from the blast placed the gold roses on the wreath after each name was called at a private candlelight service that began in the early morning darkness at 6:22 a.m. the time of the attack. Three others listed on the monument were killed in Grenada.

"You're sad but you're always very proud and that outweighs everything for me," said Judith Young of Moorestown, who brought the wreath and whose son, Jeffrey, was among the Marines who perished in the bombing of the barracks at the Beirut International Airport by an Iranian suicide bomber.

"Each time I come here it gets easier and easier. I look forward to coming every year and seeing the wives, mothers and children of those who were killed. And, I'm thrilled at how the people of Jacksonville treat us," she said.

Young, former past national president of the American Gold Star Mothers, co-founded the Beirut Connection, a support group for families of the bombing victims, and has served on the board of trustees of the Beirut Veterans Association for the past 11 years.

A crowd estimated at 4,000 attended a public ceremony later Thursday at which the commandant of the Marines, Gen. James T. Conway, spoke of the sacrifice of those who died. The Marines had been sent to Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force.

Young lives near the Moorestown park on Lenola Road named for her son -- the Jeff Young Memorial Park -- where a cross of flowers was planted under the park sign Thursday.

South Jersey has other connections to the Beirut incident.

A memorial ceremony also was held Thursday aboard the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum in Camden for one of its former sailors who died in the attack with the Marines. Carnations and a memorial wreath were tossed into the Delaware River.

The battleship was stationed off-shore of Lebanon in 1983 to try to stabilize Middleast fighting between Christian and Muslim factions. Chief Petty Officer Michael Gorchinskiof California, a chief electronics technician, had volunteered the day before the truck bomb terrorist attack to go ashore to help the Marines with their radar. He also was killed in the barracks.

His father lived in Pleasantville, Atlantic County, and his wife, Judy, attended the Camp Lejeune ceremony Thursday.

Robert Walters of Cinnaminson, a museum volunteer and a former Korean War-era crewman of the battleship, delivered a eulogy for Gorchinski along with Rev. Matt Hillyard of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden.

"May his dedication and selfless heroism be an example to our lives," Hillyard said.