JACKSONVILLE - The N.C. Department of Transportation and the City of Jacksonville are working together to improve the Beirut Memorial Grove, which honors those who lost their lives when terrorists bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983.
In October 2013, NCDOT planted a tree for each service member who died as a result of the attack 30 years earlier. The decision to create the grove was made in tandem with city.
Some of the trees had difficulty adapting to the area's environment, prompting NCDOT to take proactive steps to exchange the trees for a different type. The trees comprising the grove, located at the intersection of U.S. 17 South and N.C. 24, will be removed within the next few days and replaced by new, heartier trees that will last longer and look attractive when families gather to remember the Marines each year.
"We remain committed to honoring the Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice with a memorial that their families and the entire community will be proud of," said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. "We'll continue working with our many partners to ensure the trees will stand tall just as the Marines did through their service."
NCDOT, the city and members of the community are working together to identify and plant the new trees. After the improvements are completed, the city will maintain the grove into perpetuity.
"The Beirut Memorial group wants to thank NCDOT and the City of Jacksonville for their hard work and dedication to finding a fitting replacement for the memorial trees along Lejeune Boulevard," said Abe Rosen, chairman of the Beirut Memorial Advisory Committee.
The Beirut Memorial Grove replaces the Lejeune Boulevard trees planted in 1983 as a memorial to those who died in the Beirut bomb blast. Many of the trees along Lejeune Boulevard had been heavily damaged by storms, vehicle impacts and construction. When more trees needed to be moved for the construction of the Wilson Gate, the new entrance into Camp Lejeune, NCDOT and the city agreed to a new concept -a grove where all 273 trees would be planted in one place across from Camp Geiger. This was considered a poignant location, because that is where most of the victims were stationed prior to their service in Beirut.
"These Marines and their families were part of our strong, supportive community, and it is important that we honor their memories with this fitting tribute, and continue to make our city a place where their loved ones can come to remember each year," said Jacksonville City Manager Richard Woodruff.