People and Places with Pierce: Lejeune Memorial Gardens

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – “This place has become hallowed ground,” said retired infantry Master Sargeant Fernando Schiefelbein who is now an operations specialist with Marine Corps Installations East.

It’s a place to reflect.

“It’s a way for them to remember their comrades that have passed away,” added Schiefelbein.

The Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville started as a simple idea.

“This whole garden it started growing because of the memorials, because of the Beirut Memorial,” said Schiefelbein. “That was our first memorial out here. This is all because of the bomb blast in Beirut, Lebanon back in 1983. It was a Mercedes Benz truck with 12,000 pounds of TNT. It ran right into the center of the building and blew everyone up. So you had 241 marines, sailors, and soldiers that died. They were a peace keeping force It’s a very somber place.”

Even more so when your ties to it run deep.

“I know 18 guys on the wall,” said a man who was cleaning the grounds around the Beirut Memorial. “I’m still close to them, their families. It’s amazing that it’ll be 34 years this October. They’re called the boys because they never got anywhere else but the boys. Most of them were between the ages of 17 and 23 or 24. We were all boys. We weren’t men. We were boys.”

“The gentleman points at the wall and says well that’s my son,” added Schiefelbein. “What do you say when you have the parents and your son is on the wall? Now if that’s not heart wrenching I’m not sure what is.”

One of the newest memorials recognizes the marines of Montford Point. It was a training ground for African American marines back in the 1940’s. Each star on the wall represents one of the 20,000 men who were trained there.

“You can’t name them all,” explained Schiefelbein. “I say that because unfortunately, back then they didn’t have any record books for these folks. Their motto… is we fought to fight because it took them a lot of fight to be allowed to fight in the service. The Vietnam Memorial. This memorial here is unique, a little more unique than the one you see in D.C. You’ve got the 58,229 names etched in glass and they’re alphabetical.”

While many come to reflect on the past, Schiefelbein and others look ahead to the future.

“The Museum of the Marine is going to be a big asset to us,” said Schiefelbein. “That’s in the beginning stages. A big motto around here is that you will never forget. You will be remembered for everything you’ve done and the sacrifices that you’ve done for us to have our liberties and do everything we’re able to do today.”

 

Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.

ppp_submit_l10

WNCT-TV 9 On Your Side provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s