Ceremony for slain troops
The annual ceremony honors the loss of three local men in a 1983
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS — A memorial that honors those killed in the Beirut bombing of 1983 stands about 4 feet high on the bank of Lake Hamilton here.
Centered around a circular flagstone, the memorial holds the names of the 14 Ohioans who lost their lives in the bombing that killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon that year.
“It just says ‘Peace Keepers Memorial,’” said Richard Mitchells, commandant of the Tri-state Marine Detachment of the Marine Corps League, “because that’s what they were — peacekeepers.”
Family members of the three area men killed that day will return to this site Sunday, as they do every year near the anniversary of that date, Oct. 23, 1983.
A ceremony in honor of all those killed in the attack will begin at 1 p.m. with a call to attention and the posting of the Marine colors, said Mitchells, a Greenford resident who organized the event. Then, military officials will perform a ceremonial changing of the flags; one American, one POW, one Marine and one Navy.
A traditional memorial service will be held with a 21-gun salute. After that, New Castle resident Shirley Kirkwood will be among the family members invited to place a wreath on the stone in honor their lost loved ones.
Kirkwood’s son, Shenango High School graduate James McDonough, was killed when a truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of dynamite crashed through the gates of the multinational force barracks, where hundreds of troops, mostly Marines, were sleeping.
After all these years, fall is still a painful time of year for Kirkwood, a 69-year-old mother of six. Exactly one month before the bombing McDonough, her oldest child, had celebrated his 21st birthday.
“It’s just like it was yesterday,” said Kirkwood. “When you lose a son like that, you can’t get over it.”
Struthers resident Edward Johnston was instrum ental in bringing the memorial to Struthers in 1993. His son, Edward Anthony Johnston, also of Struthers, lost his life in the attack. He was 22. The third local victim was Niles resident Stanley Sliwinski.
Meeting at this site, year after year, the three families have become friends, Johnston said. And all three are expected Sunday, including Sliwinski’s daughter and widow.
Though the experience isn’t exactly pleasant for Johnston, he said he still appreciates the solemn annual gathering.
“I’m glad to see that people do attend,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”