|Local Marine veteran has been part of the initiative for the stamp|
Friday, July 30, 2010
By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer
For more than seven years, U.S. Marine veteran Wayne Hodges of Rocky Mount and other veterans have been working to keep the memory alive of the 241 Marines who died in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983 from a terrorist bombing attack.
The Beirut Veterans Stamp Initiative, which has been trying to get the U.S. Postal Service to approve a commemorative stamp for several years, has moved forward without the approval of the Postal Service.
Hodges, who survived the terrorist attack, said fellow Marine veteran Bill Kibler of Washington, D.C, who also served in Beirut, discovered that a stamp design approved by the Department of Defense for postage could be sold to the public through a third party vendor.
The Beirut commemorative stamp is an official postage stamp, Hodges said, but the stamps cannot be purchased at the Post Office -- only online at www.BeirutStamp.com.
"It's not what we wanted, but it's sort of a bittersweet victory," said Hodges. "We want people to buy the stamps and use them to bring awareness about those who survived the terrorist attack and honor the soldiers who were killed."
"There is an upside to this," said Hodges. "Proceeds from the sale of the stamps will be donated to the Gold Star Mothers National Monument Foundation to help fund the Beirut monument in Jacksonville, N.C.," the home base of the marine unit in which Hodges served.
While the Beirut commemorative stamp is now available to the public online, Hodges said the Beirut Stamp Initiative will continue its effort to have the stamp available for purchase at Post Offices.
"We can't reapply until 2012 for the stamp to be approved by the U.S. Postal Service Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee," Hodges said.
The last time the stamp was rejected by the advisory committee, it said the Beirut stamp was turned down because the North Carolina-based monument did not have national scope and appeal.
Over the past seven years, Hodges said he wrote letters to members of Congress asking for their support of the Beirut stamp. He also wrote letters to other friends and veterans to ask them to write their congressmen.
"Our request for the stamp has been rejected four times over the past 20 years," said Hodges, " but we'll try again in 2012."
By selling the Beirut postage stamp online, Hodges said, "We hope we can gain some momentum that may help when we reapply in 2012."
Hodges is one of three Marine veterans from Franklin County who survived the attack. The other two Marine veterans are Bud A. Nichols, formerly of Ferrum, and Timothy Mark Shively, formerly of Endicott.
At the time of the terrorist bombing attack, Hodges was serving with B Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Division.
"At the time of the attack, I was at the embassy nearby. I saw the fireball and explosion that killed the 241 Marines in their barracks," Hodges said. "It was a life-changing experience."
The Beirut bombing was described as the bloodiest attack against the U.S. military since the Vietnam War.