JACKSONVILLE DAILY NEWS STAFF
After almost 20 years and despite more than 20,000 signatures in hand, the U.S.
Postal Service is still denying requests for a stamp honoring troops killed in
the 1983 terrorist bombing in Beirut.
And veterans are still asking why. After all, they say, D-Day and the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor are remembered with military stamps, along with 15
generals, more than 45 World War II battles, more than 10 aircraft and four
stamps for the Vietnam War.
The lack of what he considers a simple remembrance is a mystery to retired Staff
Sgt. Chuck Hall, 47, of Richlands. Hall, a Beirut survivor from 1st Platoon
Guide with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, has worked
overtime to see that the 241 service members - most from Camp Lejeune - killed
in the Beirut peacekeeping mission are honored.
"I feel that the administration was and still is embarrassed about Beirut,
that's why every time they get our request they just drop the ball on it," Hall
said referring to the limited rules of engagement the 24th Marine Amphibious
Unit faced in Beirut. They could barely defend themselves and weren't allowed to
fortify their positions because it might give the perception that they were
defenders rather than peacekeepers.
For more than 10 years Hall and his comrades have navigated U.S. Postal Service
channels without success.
The request requires the approval of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, 12
to 15 volunteer members on a board appointed by Postmaster General John Potter
who is supposed to review background on why a stamp is recommended.
But the group meets in secret and isn't required to state why a stamp is or is
"They're a volunteer group and they don't want to contacted," said Liz Altobell
who prepares information for the stamp committee's quarterly meetings. "They are
protected by all sorts of privacy rules. They don't give explanations and their
deliberations are protected from the Freedom of Information Act."
But, she added, the scope of the Beirut tragedy might be a reason a stamp hasn't
"A lot of people don't want to focus on a tragedy and the people who do get the
stamps never give up," Altobell said.
But Beirut veterans point out that the Fallen Heroes stamp to commemorate the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 was approved before the first anniversary
and the Desert Storm stamp was OK'd before the troops returned from the Persian
Most Beirut veterans thought that the 20th anniversary of the barracks attack
this year would be the time a stamp would be issued.
Last year Hall traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with U.S. Rep. Walter B.
Jones, R-N.C., who put congressional action in motion to support the move for a
stamp. It remains in a congressional committee, said Lanier Swann, a Jones
"They haven't given it serious consideration and right now it's at a standstill
in committee," Hall said.
In the short term, postal officials have arranged for a special cancellation at
Jacksonville post offices Thursday, the anniversary of the bombing. It's
something any local post office can do to acknowledge community events such as
"There will be a pictorial cancellation and a special cache envelope with
pictures of the memorial that people can purchase." said USPS spokesman Bill
"It's a nice gesture, but it falls short," Hall said. "It's a slap in the face
of our comrades."
Hall said there has been talk about a blanket stamp to cover all terrorist
victims because postal officials didn't want to single out any one event.
But that infuriates Beirut veterans who say they have never been given the
respect they deserve.
"Beirut is such an embarrassment to this country," said Beirut survivor Master
Sgt. John Wayne Nash, 39, of Pontiac, Mich. assigned to 2nd Force Service
Support Group. "We were there with a multinational peacekeeping force with the
Italians, British and French and came back as victims. Although we served and
Marines died for it we never got those medals. We lost 241 people that morning
and there are 276 names on that wall. They come from all over the nation - every
race, every creed, every color and every religion.
"Obviously it didn't mean enough because there was no presidential ribbon and no
multinational peacekeeping and observers' medal," Nash said. "It says
peacekeepers on the wall and it's actually one of the lowest medals. It would
mean a lot to the families because it represents what they went there to do,
what their mission was, what we support daily, why they died and how they should
Family members like Tiffany Van Buren, 20, of Jacksonville, are also frustrated.
Her father Cpl. Stephen Eugene Spencer, 23, a cook with Headquarters and Service
Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment was killed in the Oct. 23 terrorist
"It's pretty ridiculous that we can't put out a stamp for the memory of everyone
who was killed over there with my dad," Van Buren said. "I just don't want
anyone to forget and telling people about it helps. I don't want my dad to die
in vain because it wasn't an accident."
Contact the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee at USPS Headquarters, 475
L'Enfante Plaza SW, Washington, D.C. 20260.
By Diamond Morgan
NEW PARIS, Ohio -- Veterans who served in Beirut want to honor the 243 Marines
who died from a terrorist bombing in 1983 with a postage stamp.
Veterans have proposed the U.S. Postal Service issue a stamp that would
commemorate U.S. Marines killed in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983. Jim Ponder, a
Marine veteran from New Paris, said the stamp is important to him because "243
people were killed in the bombing and we are always being overlooked." Ponder, a
Richmond High School graduate, said other Americans should take steps to help
with the adoption of the stamp.
On Oct. 23, 1983, a truck filled with more than 12,000 pounds of explosives
drove into the headquarters barracks in Beirut, killing the Marines. The fallen
servicemen were on a peacekeeping mission.
"There are a lot of people whose family and friends were killed in the bombing,"
he said. "It should be important to others."
He is urging people to contact the Postal Service and congressional
representatives to support the proposed stamp.
In a letter to the Postmaster General on the our Web site, Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., wrote: "Supporters of the stamp have been told
that the events in Beirut lacked widespread national appeal ... We must not
forget that the soldiers who lost their lives in Beirut were some of our first
victims of terror."
The Postal Service and its Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee use 12 criteria in
determining the eligibility of subjects for commemoration on U.S. stamps and
Cynthia Puryear, manager of community relations at the Postal Service
headquarters in Washington, D.C., said the CSAC did not recommend the stamp.
"The CSAC did not say why the stamp was not recommended; however, they strictly
adhere to the guidelines and they never waive them," Puryear said.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the bombing.
Mr. Tucker Carlson
C/O Reader’s Digest
Pleasantville, NY 10572-0100
I am sending you this letter, because you have a monthly column in the Reader’s
Digest magazine, entitled “That’s Outrageous” hopefully you will find what I am
about to pen to be outrageous, also. First if you will, I would like to take you
back a little into American History.
On Sunday, October 23, 1983 at approximately 6:20 a.m., 241 Marines, sailors and
soldiers were killed, and hundreds of other were wounded or disabled. This was
the result of a suicide truck, laden with over 12,000 pounds of explosives that
detonated in the BLT 1/8 headquarters barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Other
servicemen from 1982-1984 perished from sniper fire, and other atrocities.
Others died years later or are permantly disabled as the result of their wounds.
This makes a total of 270 Marines, sailors and soldiers that died during a
On Tuesday, September 11th 2001 the Pentagon, World Trade Center and Flight 93
outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was attacked by terrorists. Thousands were
killed or wounded. Less than one year after the attacks the United States Postal
Service unveiled and issued a postage stamp to commemorate these horrendous
acts. A ceremony will be held each year, on those sites, to the end of creation
to honor all who fell on that fateful day. To this I say to you and to America
that this is fitting and proper.
On Thursday, October 23, 2003 the 20th memorial service will be held in various
states across this country to honor husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles,
friends and fallen comrades.
However after almost twenty years, a postage stamp has not been issued to
commemorate the attack on the Marine compound, peacekeeping mission or any of
the lives lost at the hands of terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon 1982-1984.
In 1993 over 20,000 signatures from families, citizens and comrades in favor of
a stamp to honor our nations heroes that fell on foreign soil were collected in
a petition that were then taken to Washington, DC on September 14th 1993 to the
United States Postmaster General and the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee. This
committee is comprised of 15 people who meet quarterly in Washington, DC and
make proposals on various stamp stamps and designs to the PMG. This committee is
made up of actors, artists, graphic designers, historians, professors, corporate
businessmen and a sports commentator, not an ‘Everyday Citizen’ in the midst.
After the recommendation of the committee the PMG has the last word on which
stamps to approve and disapprove. The group of people requesting the proposed
stamp in 1993 met with the secretary to the PMG, and the chairman of the CSAC.
Some of the comments made at that time for denying the request were “We try to
honor positive things.” “People want pretty non-controversial stamps.” “Beirut
lacked significance in American history and not enough people were killed.”
These comments are simply inaccurate, untrue and outrageous! Were the tragic
events of September 11th, 2001 a positive thing?
In the Gulf War, 391 Americans died from their duties stemming from that war. A
stamp was issued for the first Gulf War heroes before they even left that war
arena. A spokeswoman for the USPS in 1993 said, “I don’t think you can compare
the Gulf War with the Beirut, Lebanon campaign.” Sir, when the men and woman
warriors went to liberate Kuwait in 1990-1991 they new clearly that there
mission was to go to war. In 1982 when President Ronald W. Reagan committed the
United States into a multinational force agreement in Beirut, Lebanon the
mission was clearly a “ Peacekeeping Mission.” On a historical note, the lives
lost on October 23, 1983 were the most USMC casualties lost in a single day
since D-Day June 6th 1944 in Normandy. There are many dictionary definitions for
war and peacekeeping. We could compare apples and oranges and different wars,
conflicts and campaigns to the end of time. However, all blood is red. And one
American life lost on foreign or domestic soil is one life too many. I believe
that all American military actions should be honored. What is, fair is fair.
I begrudge no one that has a stamp issued honoring a specific event in history,
an individual or event of this great land. I also do not begrudge actors,
actresses, insects, birds, racehorses, rock stars, musicians, cartoon characters
the list could be endless their moment of fame. However if the USPS, CSAC and
the PMG believes that all of the previous stamps issued in the past are worthy
of a postage stamp being issued commemorating their fame or event then I along
with thousands of others feel that a postage stamp depicting a peacekeeping
mission to honor 270 American lives lost on foreign soil are worthy of being
On a positive note, I met with Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr. R-NC 3rd District
at his capitol office on January 9th 2003. As a result, legislation was
introduced January 31st 2003 H. Res. 45 expressing the sense of Congress that a
postage stamp should be issued in remembrance of the victims of the peacekeeping
mission in Beirut, Lebanon 1982-1984. On a downside to this resolution there
must be 50 signatures of co-sponsors in the House of Representatives to formally
bring this before the house floor, as of this writing there have only been 35
signatures. Although I feel that Congressman Jones is doing a fine job to
champion this cause in Washington, DC an act of congress should not be necessary
to honor Americas 270 fallen heroes from 36 of her states. As the legislative
process in Washington works, with competing agendas, viewpoints and interests,
grandiose speech making, logrolling and compromise. The families of the fallen
are still without a postage stamp. A spokeswoman for Congressman Jones office
said, “That stamps have been approved for 2004 and 2005, so the soonest a stamp
could be approved would be 2006.” This again is outrageous!
There are many that have plead and defended this initiative over the years. I
have been actively involved with this campaign since October 2002. I have penned
many letters to our current and former leaders of our fine country. It seems
that most have fell on deaf ears. The last letter that I wrote was to former
President George H.W. Bush on June 24th 2003 expressing my desire for his help
on this matter. I have received no response to my letter as of this writing from
his staff or from him. President George H. W. Bush was President Reagan’s direct
representative from Washington, DC in Beirut, Lebanon on October 25th 1983. He
witnessed the carnage and devastation first hand. A widespread letter writing
campaign to the CSAC was launched in early 2003 to have letters in Washington,
DC by the end of April for the CSAC meeting. An active online petition is on the
Internet. As of this date 4,354 signatures have been collected. That is at least
4,354 American people in addition to the 20,000 that would like to have a stamp
issued for this catastrophic event.
A special cancellation stamp has been approved to be placed on envelopes and
postcards at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina only for one day, which is October
23rd 2003. This cancellation stamp falls short of the commemorative postage
stamp that has been requested for so many years. This is a nice jester, but it
is also a slap in the face, to the families and comrades that have been
requesting this stamp for so many years. Anyone or any town can request a
cancellation stamp from the USPS for any local or state event, given ample time
to cast the die. The PMG and the CSAC is looking into issuing a blanket stamp to
cover all terrorist acts against the United States, foreign and domestic. The
reason given was that they do want to “single out a specific terrorist event.”
The USPS is simply inaccurate in their statement, as duly noted with the
issuance of the 911 commemorative postage stamp issued one week prior to the
first anniversary of the tragedy.
As our country is at war in the Middle East and on our own soil, against
terrorism, may I say and that Americas first lesson in modern day terrorism,”War
on Terror” started back in 1982-1984. Also that our leaders are doing a splendid
job of ridding the world of tyrants and terrorist threats, notably so, because
of the experience gained and the blood shed in Beirut, Lebanon 1982-1984.
October 27th, 1983 President Ronald W. Reagan broadcast a speech to the American
people about the BLT 1/8 24th MAU headquarters barracks bombing. Here is a quote
from his speech seconds his closing; “ They were not afraid to stand up for
their country or, no matter how difficult and slow the journey might be, to give
to others that last, best hope of a better future. We cannot and will not
dishonor them now and the sacrifices they’ve made by failing to remain as
faithful to the cause of freedom and the pursuit of peace as they have been.”
As in the 19 years past Goldstar Mothers, wives, sons, daughters, fathers,
family members, friends and comrades will make that trek to Camp Lejeune, NC to
the “Other Wall” the Beirut Memorial, to bereave and honor their fallen family
member and comrades, twenty years after that act of cowardice. It would be
fitting to have a stamp issued honoring our fallen heroes that gave all so that
you, the American people and I can remain free today.
Sir, I beseech you to look into this matter and publish a story in your column
as soon as you see fit. Semper-Fi!! “Never Forget”
Charles G. Hall