Pa. ceremony will honor 241 Marines killed in Lebanon 30 years ago
Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
HAZLETON, Pa. — Local veterans groups will gather in Coaldale to remember the 241 U.S. Marines killed three decades ago in Beirut, Lebanon.
The ceremony will be held at the Coaldale Veterans Memorial at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, exactly 30 years — to the hour — after the tragic event, said William Gaddes, who is organizing the event with assistance from the AMVETS Post 1 of McAdoo, Coaldale American Legion and Coaldale Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"The death of 241 Marines is the largest number of Marines killed in action (in a single day) since Iwo Jima in World War II in 1945," said Gaddes, of Nesquehoning, a retired U.S. Air Force staff sergeant. "It is very important that we honor not only these Marines and Navy corpsmen, but the Gold Star mothers and the affected families. The program is designed to do exactly that."
The ceremony will be held rain or shine at the memorial, Third and Phillips streets. The site has a plaque marking the event.
"Five years ago we placed a special plaque on our Iwo Jima mural, honoring the 25th anniversary of this tragic event," said Gaddes, who designed the memorials.
Gaddes, who flew 64 combat missions over Korea as a B-29 tail gunner, will serve as master of ceremonies. He plans to talk about the tragic event, as well as Coaldale men who served the nation in the Marine Corps.
Dale Wesner of McAdoo, a recently retired U.S. Marine Corps captain, will raise the Marine Corps flag on the center pole of three newly installed flagpoles.
The Panther Valley School District's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), under battalion Commander Colin Johnson, will provide a rifle honor guard, marching unit and a bugler. The student cadets will review the Marine Corps' history and will lead the attendees in the pledge of allegiance. Cadets will place a memorial wreath at the base of the memorial's battlefield cross.
The Rev. Daniel Matthewson, pastor of St. Mary's Orthodox Church of Coaldale, will provide a blessing for the Marine heroes, their Gold Star mothers and families. He will also offer prayers for active military and veterans, who are represented by the five new military department flags that will fly over the memorial for the first time.
Veterans organizations expected to attend include the Coaldale United Veterans Organization; AMVETS Post 1 of McAdoo; Carbon County Navy Club, Ship 260; Marine Corps League of Schuylkill-Carbon County; Lansford American Legion, and McAdoo VFW Post 6708.
The public and all veterans are invited to attend this unique ceremony.
"It is unlikely that there will be many events like this in eastern Pennsylvania on the 23rd," Gaddes said.
For information or interest in participating, contact Gaddes at gaddes@wind stream.net.