Portsmouth remembers Marines lost in 1983 Beirut bombing

Beirut Memorial wreath laying This morning, about 100 family members, civic leaders, veterans, and residents gathered at the Portsmouth Historical Society for the Beirut Memorial ceremony, honoring the nine Marines killed in the barracks bombing 35 years ago. A speaking program was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the stone memorial on the grounds of the Historical Society.

Sen. Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David Cicilline all spoke, and RI Office of Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn read a proclamation from Gov. Gina Raimondo. State Senators Felag and Seveney, and Reps. Mendonca and Azzinaro were in attendance, as was Town Council member Linda Ujifusa and school committee members Terri Cortvriend and Andrew Kelly.

The speakers remembered the nine fallen Rhode Island Marines: Sgt. Timothy Giblin (Providence), Cpl. Rick Crudale (West Warwick), Cpl. David Mass (Warren), Cpl. Thomas Shipp (Woonsocket), Cpl. Edward Shares, Jr. (Tiverton), Cpl. James Silvia (Middletown), Cpl. Stephen Spencer (Portsmouth), and Lance Cpl. Thomas Julian (Portsmouth) and the other 232 Marines and sailors lost in the terrorist attack during the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

"They gave their last full measure of devotion in defense of others, in defense of our nation," said Sen. Reed. "Let us rededicate ourselves to their mission of selfless service and being part of something greater than ourselves."

"We come together every year," said Sen. Whitehouse, "To commemorate these lives and the tradition of service that these nine Rhode Islanders and the United States Marine Corps represent."

Said Rep. Cicilline, "As a nation we must pledge to support the families of those who lost that day as well as the veterans of all of our country's wars. Those who risk everything for our country deserve the thanks and support of a grateful nation."

The morning's main speaker, USMC Lt. Col. Jonathan Kenney, delivered an impassioned remembrance that drew on poetry, his time serving in the same battalion, and the memorial to the fallen at Camp Lejeune. "When I was stationed in Camp Lejeune North Carolina," said Kenney, "Every day I drove along Highway 24 to and from work. And I would pass the Bradford Pear trees that line the median of the Freedom Highway. And each of those trees were planted to represent every life that was taken on the 23rd of October. As I pass each one of those trees, it's hard, not to see in every one of those, the extent of loss that was suffered on that fateful day. Every tree represented a Marine with a family. With a mother. With a father. With a girlfriend, with a fiancee, with a wife, brothers sisters. They each had different ambitions. Each of those Marines. But they served with a common purpose and tragically, we lost them in the blink of an eye."

A full transcript of his remarks is here, but this was his powerful summation.

"If you've ever heard the Marines Hymn," said Kenney, "You'll know that the last line says,"When the Army and the Navy look on Heaven's scenes/They will find the streets are guarded/ By United States Marines." I would submit and we know, we're confident here in this room, that while Marines may be guarding those heavenly streets, it's the Rhode Island Nine who are standing in front of those heavenly formations looking out for us. And so it's important again that we respect the sacrifices they made and be grateful. May God bless each one of those fallen heroes. May God bless the families, each one of you still suffering with their loss. We offer you our support as you continue to struggle. And may God bless the United States of America."

02871, Localblogging, beirut

Remembering Beirut

09oct23_beirut_salute.jpgNearly 100 people packed the Portsmouth Historical society this morning for a ceremony remembering the 241 service members killed in the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Families of several of the nine Rhode Islanders lost were on hand to see memorial founder Shirley Zdanuk present the Portsmouth Historical Society with a plaque remembering the fallen.

Among the attendees were state Sen. Chuck Levesque, Reps Amy Rice and Jay Edwards, and Town Councilors Keith Hamilton and Jim Seveney. During the moving half-hour ceremony, guest speaker USMC Lt. Col James Iulo quoted Robert A. Gannon's poem, "The Other Wall"

Shirley Zdanuk with plaque

They did not go as conquerors
To bring a nation down
Or for honor or for glory
Or for praises or renown.

When they landed on that foreign shore
Their only thought in mind
Was the safety of its people
And the good of all mankind.

Memorial at Camp Lejeune
Wikipedia entry on the bombing

Localblogging, 02871, beirut

Portsmouth remembers fallen Beirut Marines

Portsmouth Beirut Memorial benediction
Navy Chaplain Manuel Biadog delivers benediction at the Portsmouth Beirut Memorial.

In a moving hour-long ceremony this morning, Portsmouth marked the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut and remembered the 9 Rhode Islanders among the 241 service members killed. Almost 100 people packed the Portsmouth Historical Society, joined by guest speakers and a contingent of Marines for the wreath-laying ceremony.

"People think that the war on terror started on 9/11," said USMC Colonel William F. Mullen III, "But it was actually much earlier, with the Iranians taking our Embassy in 1979, and the bombing of our Embassy in Beirut [in April, 1983] and [the barracks] that October. They were the first casualties in a very long war with an implacable enemy. The peacekeepers' valor and sacrifice will never be forgotten. They left us a legacy second to none, and our toughest job will be to live up to their legacy."

"Marines are always on the front line — that's what makes them Marines," said guest speaker Representative Patrick Kennedy. "Tragically, on that day, we didn't do enough to make sure they were protected." He noted that Rhode Island, the smallest state, bore a heavy toll of casualties in the attack, and expressed concern that the Lebanon deployment had no national memorial.

Zdanuk and Kennedy
Portsmouth memorial founder Shirley Zdanuk and Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

Portsmouth resident Shirley Zdanuk, who has been instrumental in maintaining the memorial at the historical society, spoke about the history of the yearly remembrance, going back to a Garden Club event on Memorial Day in 1984 that drew almost 1,000 people. She promised, "There will always be ceremonies here on this date." Zdanuk asked Rep. Kennedy for his help in getting national recognition. "After the Twin Towers, there was a stamp put out," she said, but the Post Office has failed to respond to calls to remember Beirut.

Zdanuk and Kennedy talked briefly after the ceremony, and he offered his support. "I am going to work on a proper acknowledgment," Kennedy told reporters, promising to take up the issue with the Post Office and other Federal agencies. "It is long overdue," he said, "For those who perished, we need to work to be sure this is done."

Zdanuk told reporters she appreciated Kennedy's support and promised to hold him to it. She credited the "people of Portsmouth and the Island" for all the work they have done to keep the memory alive, and expressed sadness that, "If you ask what happened on 9/11, everybody knows, but few people know if you ask what happened on October 23."

In memoriam:
Sergeant Timothy Giblin
Corporal Rick R. Crudale
Corporal Edward S. Iacovino Jr.
Corporal David C. Massa
Corporal Thomas A. Shipp
Corporal James Silvia
Corporal Edward Soares Jr.
Corporal Stephen Spencer
Lance Corporal Thomas Julan

More photos from the event posted on Flickr.

Update: ProJo has a video.

Localblogging, 02871, beirut