NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Nearly 30 years ago, America was shocked when suicide bombers drove two trucks loaded with explosives into a barracks in Beirut and killed 241 members of the United States Armed Forces.
The overwhelming majority of the American servicemen killed — 220 — were Marines and one of them was North Andover’s own Cpl. Sean Gallagher. He and his comrades were stationed at Beirut International Airport on a peacekeeping mission, hoping to bring about an end to the civil war in Lebanon.
Fifty-eight French Army paratroopers were also killed in the Oct. 23, 1983 attack.
Gallagher’s hometown honored him by naming the athletic fields on Salem Street in his honor. A memorial for the Marine, who died a week before his 21st birthday, was placed there.
Eagle Scout candidate Sam King, a member of Troop 82, has committed himself to a community service project that will undoubtedly resonate positively with just about every North Andoverite.
King, a Whittier Regional Technical High School senior, plans to refurbish the memorial to Gallagher. Among other things, he intends to construct a stone patio.
He has already removed some brush, he told the selectmen Monday night. To earn Scouting’s highest rank, a candidate must not only earn at least 21 merit badges, he must also plan and supervise a community service project.
The project must involve other people, working under the Eagle-to-be’s direction.
King’s project was very pleasing to Selectman Richard Vaillancourt, who graduated from North Andover High School in 1981 along with Gallagher. Vaillancourt and Gallagher were both members of Troop 81 and were friends, the selectman recalled.
“He was perfect for the Marines,” Vaillancourt said of Gallagher. He noted that Timothy Campbell, a mutual friend of his and Gallagher’s, led the effort to get the town to honor the Marine by dedicating the Salem Street fields in his memory.
Many local residents said “they” should do something to honor the young man who died in the service of his country, Vaillancourt pointed out. Finally, Campbell decided that “we are they” and spearheaded the undertaking, he said.
King, who is studying automotive technology at Whittier Tech, intends to follow Gallagher’s example of service to the United States. He told The Eagle-Tribune he plans to enlist in the Navy after graduation.
With only a month to go before he turns 18, King has his work cut out for him. An Eagle Scout must complete all of his requirements for the rank before his 18th birthday.
Both Vaillancourt and Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile, however, indicated they’re betting King will pull it off.