Beirut Memorial stamp bypassed again
A citizen petition to mint a postage stamp depicting Jacksonville’s Beirut Memorial has once again been declined, according to United States Postal Service officials. But the stamp’s advocates are not ready to give up yet.
Beirut veterans and family members have been working for more than two decades to get approval for a stamp memorializing the 241 peacekeepers who perished in the 1983 Beirut terrorist attacks, most of whom were based in Jacksonville. In that time, they have received three rejections. In October, many of them were encouraged when, at a meeting of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, the stamp proposal was tabled until January for evaluation, rather than dismissed.
But on Monday, a spokesman for USPS, Mark Saunders, said in a statement, “the proposal was rejected because the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee didn’t believe the Memorial in North Carolina was as national in scope as other National Memorials that have been recently featured on stamps.”
Examples of memorials of national importance included Washington D.C.’s World War II and Korean War Memorials, built by the federal government and managed by the National Park Service. Saunders said that votes taken by the 13-member committee are taken behind closed doors, and tallies are not released.
A leader of the stamp initiative and Web master of beirutstamp.com, Bill Kibler, said he could understand the committee’s reasoning in part, as other memorials to the Beirut bombings exist, including one erected in Philadelphia in 1985. But, he said, Jacksonville’s memorial has come to be understood as the official one, as people from across the country visit it on the anniversary of the tragedy to pay tribute.
“If this memorial were sitting in Washington, we’d get a stamp in a heartbeat,” Kibler said. “Because this memorial sits near Camp Lejeune, they think we’re on a regional level, and we need to be on a national level.”
There are 12 major criteria that now guide stamp selection, restricting subject matter to American or America-related themes, barring a living person from being featured on a stamp, and limiting content to themes only of widespread appeal and significance, among other criteria.
To brainstorm creative ways to re-present the petition, Kibler said he has been in touch with one of the rulebreakers: George Mendonsa, best known as the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square in the world-famous photograph taken on V-J Day, as one of two living people pictured on a stamp.
Other members of the stamp initiative plan to collect more congressional signatures (in 2009, they collected 16) and attract more public attention to the effort, including the possibility of pursuing celebrity endorsement.
A member of the group, Wayne Hodges, a former Marine who was on duty in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut at the time of the bombing, said a commemorative stamp would be a sign of acknowledgement from the U.S. government about the significance of Beirut, and would be a token of honor for veterans and survivor families. That, he said, should speak to the committee.
“When they say it’s not national enough, what is more national than the United States Marine Corps?” he said.
Hodges said he will see the petition through to its success, which he is “90 percent sure” will come about eventually.
“Somewhere out there is the key and we’ve just got to find it. And we’re gonna find it,” Hodges said.
Contact Hope Hodge at 910-219-8453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.