Veteran remembers friend who died in 1983 Beirut explosion

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: William Gaines Jr. Memorial.

The devastating blast in Beirut, Lebanon brings back painful memories for a Southwest Florida native. His friend, William Gaines, a Charlotte County hero died during the explosion in Beirut in 1983.

We spoke to veteran Jeff Mosher Wednesday about the difficult memories and how a group plans to carry on the legacy of lives lost in Lebanon.

William R. Gaines Jr. of Port Charlotte was one of 241 U.S. marines killed in the Beirut barracks bombing of October 1983.

Gaines friend and Matlacha native Jeff Mosher heard and felt the explosion from a mile and a half away, but he says it took days to learn of his friend’s passing.

“People at home in the United States probably knew sooner than what we knew,” said Mosher, who is a veteran of the U.S Marine Corps. “We were kinda disconnected from our headquarters in that moment in time.”

The old Sunrise Park in Port Charlotte is dedicated in honor of Gaines and other community heroes, renamed William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park.

The group behind the park is also working to add the “Beirut Peacekeepers Memorial tower,” which will include the names of service members who died in Beirut from 1982 to 1984 and personalized rods to honor the marines who died on Oct. 23, 1983.

“This will be an education for those who come,” Mosher said. “This is part of history and a story that must be told.”

The William R. Gaines Veterans Memorial Fund is still raising money for the tower. All the permitting is complete, and the group plans to meet with a contractor Thursday before the project goes to final bid.

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