Flagpole from 1983 Beirut terror attack delivered to SWFL

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz
Published: Updated:

Fort-one years ago, terrorists killed 241 American service members in Beirut.

They drove explosive-filled trucks into a housing unit for a multi-national peacekeeping force. One of those Marines who died was a young man from Southwest Florida.

On Wednesday, the flagpole that carried our county’s colors that day in Beirut has a new home in Charlotte County.

We hear about history and see pictures and videos, but now, people in Charlotte County have the opportunity to touch it as well.

“Every veteran I know that knows of this is going to come to this flagpole, in this park, in front of this peacekeeper’s memorial and put their hand on that flagpole,” said Stephen R. Deutsch, a Charlotte County commissioner.

This flagpole unveiled in a ceremony at William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in Port Charlotte could tell a thousand stories.

“It was one of the light poles that had been converted and used as flag poles in Beirut by the Marines,” said Michael Gaines, who found the flagpole.

Gaines found the pole under a pile of rubble while visiting Beirut, Lebanon, last year. His brother, William Jr., was killed in the Beirut barracks bombing on Oct. 23, 1983, at just 19 years old.

He was one of 241 American service members killed in what is regarded by many as the real beginning of the war on terror.

“He was my big brother, who’s seven years older than me. He went to Charlotte High School,” Gaines said.

Now, the flagpole from the place William spent the last moments of his life will have a new home in the park named after him.

“That was the last place he was, but now to know that I can come here and touch a piece of Beirut is important to me,” Gaines said.

And while the flagpole has a special meaning for Michael, it’s just as important to veterans like Reverend Kevin Shaw, who served in Beirut and survived the bombing.

“That was my unit that got blown up, so I lost a lot of friends there, a lot of friends. I know, in Beirut, I probably looked at that pole hundreds of times,” Shaw said.

The memories it evokes, he said, aren’t all pleasant, but they’re crucial.

“It’s a part of history that we should never forget,” Shaw said.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.