RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The N.C. Department of Transportation is joining with the City of Jacksonville and the Beirut Memorial Advisory Board to establish a Beirut Memorial Grove to honor the victims of the 1983 bombing that killed 273 service members.
A statement from the department said the new grove will include 273 autumn flowering cherry trees to commemorate each life lost. The cherry trees will carry on the legacy of the Beirut Memorial Bradford Pear Trees planted along Lejeune Boulevard in the 1980s.
Over time, many of the original trees planted on Lejeune Boulevard to honor those killed on Oct. 23, 1983, were damaged or relocated to improve safety along the route and to accommodate highway improvements as part of the new Base Entry Road interchange being constructed near Bell Fork Road.
The site selected for the memorial grove is a triangular, 12-acre elevated plot within the U.S. 17/N.C. 24/U.S. 258 interchange near Camp Geiger that serves as an entrance onto the Jacksonville Bypass.
The $11.5 million project was awarded to contractor Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. Work began on the site last week and the new trees, which were selected in part because they bloom in October, are expected to be blooming at the time of next year’s ceremony remembering the bombing victims.
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