Beirut stamp becomes a reality – without USPS
After 24 years and numerous rejections, members of the Beirut Veterans Stamp Initiative have decided to move forward with a commemorative stamp design — with or without the approval of the U.S. Postal Service.
In February, the USPS Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee declined for the third time a proposal memorializing the 241 peacekeeping Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune’s 24th Marine Amphibious Unit who died in a terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983.
Marine veteran Bill Kibler, who served in Beirut and manages the Stamp Initiative website, decided Beirut veterans and their family members couldn’t afford to wait any longer.
“We’d have to wait until 2012 to reapply with the postal service,” he said. “I was going over the postal service page and came across third party vendors. I thought, ‘Well, gee, what’s that about?’”
After working with Defense Department administrators to find a useable image of Onslow County’s Beirut Memorial, he worked with the company to create six designs for postage and other items, including a close-up image of the statue of the Marine peacekeeper in front of the memorial and an image of the epitaph, “They Came in Peace,” etched into the memorial wall.
It’s not happening the way Kibler and the other members of the Stamp Initiative imagined it would, but Kibler said it is a victory nonetheless for the movement.
“Are these official U.S. postage stamps? Of course they are,” Kibler said. “The one thing is, you cannot buy them at the Post Office; you have to purchase them online.”
And, he said, these stamps have an advantage in one key way: Proceeds from sale of the stamps will be donated to the Gold Star Mothers National Monument Foundation.
Judith Young, chairwoman of the foundation and a Gold Star mother who lost a son in the Beirut bombing, said she would welcome the assistance with funding the monument, as well as the tribute to the troops lost in Beirut.
“It’s good that we’re going to get it out there anyway, and it would benefit the monument,” she said. “If it comes down to it and this is the only way we will get out the stamp, then this is the only way; but we will keep trying.”
Though 2012 is far off yet, Kibler said they would try once more then to have the stamp approved by USPS.
A spokesman for the postal service said in February that the Beirut memorial stamp had been turned down because a North Carolina-based monument did not have national scope and appeal.
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Among Beirut veterans and family members, though, Kibler said, the Zazzle design, which was published to the site on Thursday, has already been a hit.
“My hits started doubling as soon as I announced I had the website up and running,” he said. “Looking over the reports this morning, I’ve sold 25 sheets of stamps.”
A commemorative stamp may seem a small token, but Kibler said its meaning is significant for those affected by the Beirut tragedy.
“It means we can breathe again,” he said. “Somebody’s taken the time to recognize us, which is the whole point of the Beirut stamp.”