PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — A helicopter whirred by overhead and American flags were raised high over the weekend as the community gathered at William R. Gaines, Jr. Veterans Memorial Park to mark 40 years since the U.S. Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983. This event brought together veterans, first responders, and residents to pay tribute to the 241 American military members who lost their lives in the attack.
"This is significant in the history of the Marines,” emphasized Stephen R. Deutsch, Charlotte County Commissioner.
Named in honor of Corporal William Gaines, a young man from Charlotte County who had just turned 21 a week before being killed in the barracks bombing, the park is a special place for the community.
Monday, October 23, 2023, marks 40 years since that unforgettable Sunday. The park currently holds three memorials, with a fourth being added soon.
“We’re going to be building an almost 50-foot tower here which is going to be an educational experience,” stated Deutsch.
The tower will tell the story of the 241 Americans that went to Lebanon as peacekeepers to keep the airports open and help people survive during the Lebanese Civil War. Deutsch said these memorials play an important role in keeping the impact that CPL. William Gaines and all the fallen troops have alive in the memories of the community.
“We have about 30,000 veterans that live in Charlotte County. With a 206,000 population that’s pretty significant to have that many veterans and families. We provide all kinds of services to our veterans and we take pride in that,” Deutsche proudly stated.
Deutsche said the dedication to honoring veterans and first responders is a testament to the community's gratitude for their service. He further reflected on the significance of these memorials, stating, “I don’t think we ever want to lose sight of how blessed we are to be here in the United States of America.”
Construction for the three-story memorial tower, a beacon of remembrance, is set to begin in about three weeks, ensuring that the sacrifices of CPL. William Gaines and his fellow service members will live on in the hearts of the Charlotte County community.