Acting Under Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Gregory J. Slavonic served as the keynote speaker at the Rhode Island Nine Beirut Memorial dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony September 27 in Providence, Rhode Island.
The memorial honors the nine Rhode Island Marines who lost their lives during the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon October 23, 1983.
“Most of you know the names of the nine Marines who perished during the horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut,” said Slavonic. “But beyond every name there is a story – a decision to serve, a commitment to peace and freedom, and a family waiting so anxiously at home.”
The ceremony incorporated personal and military aspects. Gold Star families of the deceased Marines were present and laid wreaths at the memorial, beneath images of their fallen service members. The Marine Corps Color Guard played the National Anthem and the Rhode Island National Guard provided a flyover. The Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee also spoke at the event, in addition to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.
The attack on the Marine barracks killed 241 U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers who were deployed to Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping mission during the Lebanese Civil War.
“While today is an opportunity to reflect on the lives of those who were lost, it is also an opportunity to inspire new generations to understand the freedom they have been given…” The Honorable Gregory J. Slavonic, Under Secretary of the Navy
To honor that mission, written in granite of the Rhode Island Nine Memorial wall are the words: They came in peace.
“They came in peace…is a phrase often associated with Marines that served in the Lebanon crisis from 1982-1984,” said Col. Craig R. Wonson, a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College and ceremony speaker.
The sacrifice made by the Rhode Island Nine and their fellow Marines was not in vain. In many ways, the events of that Sunday morning have helped better prepare our Marines for such situations today…The lessons learned and applied from Beirut have, without question, helped keep thousands of Marines safe ever since.”
The Beirut bombing remains the single deadliest day for the U.S. Marine Corps since D-Day at Iwo Jima in 1945 and the deadliest day for Rhode Island service members since the Civil War.
“While today is an opportunity to reflect on the lives of those who were lost, it is also an opportunity to inspire new generations to understand the freedom they have been given, to grasp how and why it is theirs, and to dedicate themselves to pass it on to generations yet to come,” said Slavonic. “The dedication that takes place today is a wonderful example of ensuring the memories of these warriors continue to live on.”
The memorial is located on the Providence River on Dyer Street and is open to the public.