Memorial honoring Beirut bombing victims in Charlotte County

Reporter: Annette Montgomery Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for The United States of America. Wednesday a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Beirut Peacekeepers in Charlotte County.

When the tower is finished it will serve as a gathering place for the families of those Americans who died during the Beirut bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks 40 years ago.

And where the rest of us can go to appreciate and honor their sacrifice.

“The War on Terror didn’t begin on September 11. It began on October 23, 1983, with the deaths of 241 servicemembers,” veteran Dr. James Breckenridge from Provost of the Army War College said.

241 people who will forever live on the Beirut Peacekeepers Memorial Tower in Charlotte County.

241 people who were husbands and sons to families that were devastated when they found out what happened. And to “Chip” Shields who was in the building when the bomb went off.

“What brings up emotions is the pain…not mine… everybody else’s pain… the family’s pain…my brothers’ pain… you know… cries​… even now,” Thurnell “Chip” Shields said.

It’s a pain only a few can feel either because they served in Beirut and can recall that tragic day 40 years ago.

“As I laid out on my cot waiting for transport, I looked over to the hangar… it was filled with bodies as far as I can see and these were my brethren,” Chip said.

Or, similarly to Judith Young, they lost someone who was there.

“The years have gone by there have been many tributes to all of the men of Beirut… and I have been making a collection I started of each one of these memorials.. it was parks, it was flagpoles,” Young said.

While it may be bittersweet, perhaps Young adding to the tower can offer some relief.

But why build the memorial in Charlotte County? Furthermore, why build it at William R Gaines Veterans Memorial Park?

It’s because Gaines was one of those 241 souls lost on that fateful day in Beirut.

“I think to be able to tell the story of that time period. I mean, that was really my goal for this is to help others learn about Beirut and their story and those lives and you know, any chance to remember them in any way is important,” Michael Gains, the brother of William R Gaines, said

“Of those who sacrificed in Beirut… none of that was in vain.. all served a greater purpose to make this nation… the nation that we love more secure,” Dr. Breckenridge said.

Perhaps an example of that is as Dr. Breckenridge explained, three years after the bombing congress passed the Goldwater Nichols Act.

The Goldwater Nichols Act emphasized the joint nature of military operations.

The goal is for construction to begin on the tower within the next month.

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