Twenty-two coffins were aligned and draped with flags today on the second day of ceremonies honoring U.S. Marines and soldiers killed in Lebanon and Grenada, and the first coffins of Marines killed in Beirut were shipped to home towns.
Today's service at Dover Air Force Base, chosen because it has the largest military mortuary on the East Coast, honored 15 more servicemen killed in the bombing of the Marine headquarters compound in Beirut Oct. 23 and seven killed in last week's invasion of Grenada.
Another 15 bodies of Americans killed in Beirut were scheduled to arrive at the base early Monday morning. It was not known when the remaining dead will be returned for burial.
"As soon as the bodies are positively identified, they are shipped out. There's no policy" for returning them in specific groups, said a spokesman at Rhine-Main Air Force base in Frankfurt, West Germany, from which the bodies have been flown. Many of the dead still have not been identified, he said.
"Any attempt to honor Americans such as these is necessarily inadequate by their deaths and service to their country," said Marine Lt. Gen. D'Wayne Gray, headquarters chief of staff.
"What we can do is to try to live so that when we may be tested as they have been tested, we may be found, as they have been found, to be faithful to their trust," he said.
The first group of 15 bodies of U.S. servicemen killed in Lebanon arrived early Saturday and was honored that morning.
Air Force Lt. James Sahli, Dover's deputy public affairs officer, said each incoming group of casualties will be honored at ceremonies similar to those Saturday and today.
A 38-foot American flag provided a backdrop for the Marine and Army escort in an airplane hangar that will be used for more of the brief ceremonies. A military color guard was on hand, and the Marine Band played "Eternal Father," "The Navy Hymn," "America the Beautiful" and "The Marine Hymn."
Karen Sosnicki of Clairton, Pa., sister of Marine Lance Cpl. Richard A. Morrow, 21, who was killed in Beirut, was comforted by a friend, James Embody, during the ceremony.
"I just want to say my brother was proud to be a Marine," she said afterward. "We were all very proud of him."
The family of Army Capt. Michael F. Ritz, 28, of Petersburg, Va., also attended.