Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Memorial Day Record Turnout for Beirut Vets!!

Record Turnout! Beirut Vets, Families Well Represented at National Memorial Day Parade
Photo: JulieWard
By Bill Kibler
Twenty-Five! That’s how many people made the trip to be part of the Beirut entry in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washing- ton, D.C. May 31, 2010.
This record number in- cluded: Major Bob Jordan and his wife, Evi from Ft. Meade, MD; Randy and Julie Ward and their 3 children from Orlando, FL; Jimmy and Janet Young and their 2 children from Baltimore, MD; Wayne and Kathy Hodges, their daughter and grandson in tow with the “Beirut Bug” who drove up the night before from Roanoke, VA; Les and Linda Kameck from Cuba, NY; Anthony “Boots” Leboutiller from SC; Ceasar Valdez from Washington, DC; and weekend organizer Bill Kibler from Washington, DC. Lastly we had 1st Sgt Willie Medley (Beirut Veteran) and 4 of his JROTC Marine Cadets from Mount Vernon High School.
The weekend started at 5pm and never seemed to slow down. We had things planned the entire time. We started out Friday night walking from the hotel to 8th and I, Marine Barracks Washington for the evening
sunset parade, stopping at the Hawk and Dove for dinner. What appeared as a looming rainstorm gathered full force and started raining at the be- ginning of the evening parade and didn’t let up until about 10 min. be- fore the end of the parade. The show went on as planned. Everyone made it back to the hotel soaked but en- joyed the night out.
The next morning we walked to the US Capitol for a reserved tour of the place. Packed but orderly, we managed to make our way thru the halls of the US Capitol. Afterwards we all went to the Air and Space and at 1 p.m. went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit Section 59 where Beirut KIAs are buried. We placed Marine Corps and Navy flags by their headstones and paid our re- spects and then went to the Tomb of the Unknown and the JFK flame. Following our trip to Arlington we had dinner at a fancy restaurant in China Town.
Sunday featured a trip to the Quantico Museum of the Marine Corps, followed by a stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA.
Thanks to Ceasar Valdez who got thru security early enough and saved us front row seats at the PBS Con- cert on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol while the Wards took an eve- ning bus tour of Washington, stop- ping at all the national monuments.
We later reconvened at the hotel lobby cocktail lounge area and that’s when Randy Ward’s jaw dropped onto the table when he spot- ted a gentlemen sitting at the next table over from us wearing a Con- gressional Medal of Honor. We fi- nally found the right time and made conversation with him. Hershel “Woody” Williams received his CMH from his service from the bat- tle of Iwo Jima!! Coins were ex- changed!
Monday finally arrived and after 3 days of on-the-go walking we were ready for more. Braving the 94 degrees in the shade, we made it down to the parade staging area where we assembled and waited for our cue to begin the parade. Thanks to Randy and Julie Ward, who do- nated the embroidered service and USA flags, we had our first ever BVA Joint-Service Color guard (including Les Kameck’s Lebanon flag), complete with armed sentries posted on either end from the JROTC Marine Cadets. The crowd gave us a standing ovation as we turned the corner onto Constitution Avenue as the master of ceremonies read our script, the Joint Chiefs of Staff standing to salute our color guard as we went by. We made it ... the entire 12 blocks with no heat ex- haustion and listening to the ap- plause the entire parade route. We are already planning for next year... will you be included?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Beirut veterans, fallen honored with memorial stamp 

ARLINGTON, Va.  — To honor the American service members who died during the Lebanese Civil War, veterans and Gold Star family members lobbied the United States Postal Service and Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee to issue a Beirut commemorative postage stamp for more than 20 years. The stamp initiative started in 1986 when a group of Gold Star family members visited the nation’s capitol. When petitioning the United States Postal Service and Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee failed to yield results after 24 years, Beirut veterans tried third party vendor This led to the creation of Beirut Stamp
“I felt relieved that we made a breakthrough,” said Beirut veteran Leslie Kameck. “I’d love to see more stamps and I already plan on getting more.”
Since its July 15 release, more than 50 stamp sheets have been sold. Additionally, 90 cents from the sale of each sheet goes toward the Gold Star Mothers National Memorial Foundation.
"Not only are the purchases supporting the morale of the Beirut veterans and the families of the fallen, they also financially help Gold Star Mothers," said Bill Kibler, one of the Beirut veterans who headed the stamp initiative.
Gold Star Mothers National Memorial Foundation Chairwoman Judith Young said the organization’s efforts are aimed at continuing a tradition that has affected thousands of mothers throughout history.
 “Our goal is to recognize an ongoing tradition and over 600,000 gold star mothers,” Young said. “Last year we raised $18,000 and hope to do better next year.”
At approximately 6:22 a.m., on Oct. 23, 1983, a blast catalyzed by six tons of explosives tore through the Marine Corps Headquarters building in Beirut, Lebanon. The blast, equivalent to the force of 20,000 lbs. of TNT, destroyed the barracks and killed 241 service members, 220 of which were Marines, along with 18 sailors and three soldiers.
Kibler said the Marine presence in Lebanon was one of good will. As part of a multi-national peacekeeping force, the Marines worked to quell the violence and halt atrocities. This is the validation behind the phrase “they came in peace,” which is inscribed on the Beirut War Memorial and the six commemorative stamps.
“To have this stamp out there recognizes their sacrifice so they may hold their heads up high, if they aren’t already,” Kibler said.