It is impossible to talk about our Marines and not use words like courage and bravery. Pride, patriotism, and loyalty come to mind. And, of course, sacrifice. As an ideal, sacrifice communicates the depths to which the proud few will reach to accomplish a goal, complete a mission. For those Marines who made and will make the ultimate sacrifice, it falls on the nation, we for whom they died, to decide how to reflect, grieve, and commemorate their fearless act.
A strong military heritage is prominently displayed throughout Jacksonville, NC. It is in town for the Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast. Driving into Jacksonville on Lejeune Blvd, keep an eye out for Montford Landing Rd. There you’ll find the Lejeune Memorial Gardens, where our heroes are remembered.
The Lejeune Memorial Gardens provide a hushed environment to contemplate the lives lost for our nation. Trees stand tall throughout the space, providing precious shade in summer for those lost to introspection. Strewn across the grounds, visitors are free to wander among memorials to fallen soldiers.
A sculpture of a marine [soldier] stands between the halves of a wall for the Beirut Memorial. One side is inscribed with “They came in peace” along with the names of 273 servicemembers who died in the bombing. Azaleas bloom impossibly pink in the spring as people walk the length of the wall and consider every name.
At the dome of Vietnam Veterans Memorial, sound floats easily among the acoustics. All the branches of the military are represented along the entryway. Further still, past the entryway and the dome is a glass wall. Etched across it are still more names. Those who went missing, prisoners of war, and the dead are all acknowledged. It is one of only a few Vietnam Veterans Memorials to list the names of all of the fallen.
The first Black Marines who served from 1942 to 1949 are honored with the Montford Point Marine Memorial. They fought for the right to fight but there are no official records of the men who took part. The Montford Point Marine Memorial is decorated with 20,000 stars to represent the Black Marines who distinguished themselves but whose names have been lost to us.
Brought to Camp Lejeune on a New York City fire engine, a beam from the World Trade Center is the focal point of the 9/11 Memorial Beam. The heavy studs poking out of the metal were forced askew and now forever bent. Many are adorned with small American flags and other mementos left by those who remember.
In the reflecting pool outside the Museum of the Marine, a giant globe sits with an anchor running through it. Stars can be found across the globe, places where Marines have been routinely deployed. Poised above the world, claws reaching out and a shriek implied from its open mouth, is an eagle, its bronze wings spread in flight.
Military bases and city trails connect through the gardens. Both civilians and servicemen cross through the Lejeune Memorial Gardens as they travel between engagements. More memorials are planned for the future, including a Corpsmen Memorial. Amidst traffic and schedules, thousands of names are carved throughout the Lejeune Memorial Gardens. As visitors read they remember this was someone’s child, spouse, parent. These thousands of names are recalled when we consider the cost of war and the cost of upholding ideals. They are the names of people who gave all they had to give.