Jacksonville, North Carolina is home to Camp Lejeune (the East Coast’s largest marine corp base), and it’s a town that celebrates and welcomes its military with wide open arms. One wonderful example is Lejeune Memorial Gardens, which honors generations of military heritage through a series of memorials.
Whether you have ties to the military or not (I don’t), you can’t help but be moved by these beautifully designed tributes, and any visit to Jacksonville should include a stop here.
I’ve included some of the background information and symbology in the following overview of the various memorials, and Visit Jacksonville has a printable guide here. You’ll also find informational placards near the memorials when you arrive.
“They came in peace.”
It was just to be a peacekeeping mission when military forces were sent to Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, but two hundred forty-three servicemen lost their lives because a truck bomb exploded and destroyed the Marine barracks. Many now consider the Beirut bombing to be the opening salvo in the War on Terrorism.
The memorial began with the planting of trees (one for each lost serviceman), and when donations continued to roll in after the tree dedication ceremony, the memorial was expanded to what you see now. A marine stands guard in between the two broken walls.
One side of the wall bears the inscription “THEY CAME IN PEACE,” and the other side lists 273 names — those who died immediately or from injuries sustained in the bombing along with three Jacksonville Marine pilots killed in Grenada.
The Beirut Memorial is the largest military memorial ever to be funded completely by public donations, and it’s a perfect example of how Jacksonville embraces its military roots.
This is the second-largest Vietnam Veteran memorial in the nation, and it’s particularly moving since it’s one of the few to list all the names of the fallen. The 58,229 names are etched alphabetically in glass walls which encircle a dome and a fountain. The fountain has five jets to represent each of the military branches, and inscribed on the dome are the words to “Taps”.
It’s really a beautiful place to reflect on those we’ve loved and lost.
Montford Point Marine Memorial
This memorial honors the first African Americans to become Marines. These courageous men enlisted in the Marine Corps after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order allowing it despite the fact they were not wanted by the very corps they pledged to serve. They were segregated to Montford Point (now called Camp Johnson) for eight years, and they served with great valor despite the bigotry, harassment and deplorable treatment they received.
The 15-foot tall bronze statue honoring the Montford Point Marines stands near an anti-aircraft gun, the primary weapon used by the battalions to which most of the Montford Point Marines were assigned. The stars on the wall number around 20,000 and represent the number of Montford Point Marines that served during WWII. The use of stars rather than names symbolizes the sad fact that nobody kept a complete Montford Point Marines roster.
This beam from the World Trade Center was the first beam to leave New York City, and it was presented in appreciation of the fact that the Marines were the first into Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers. It was carried to Jacksonville on a New York City fire engine.
Eagle, Globe and Anchor Sculpture at Lejeune Memorial Gardens
Located at the future Museum of the Marine entryway atop a reflecting pool and adjacent to the Lejeune Memorial Gardens is the world’s largest eagle, globe, and anchor statue.
The eagle, globe, and anchor make up the official United States Marine Corps emblem, and this statue retains the insignia’s basic elements interpreted with artistic creativity. The stars on the globe represent the major battles and deployments of Carolina Marines.
Freedom Fountain is located at the gateway to downtown Jacksonville (near Lejeune Memorial Gardens), and it’s a must-see. The medallions of each of the five branches of the military are suspended in arches behind the fountain, and flags fly for each of them as well. The largest of the fountains stands for freedom, the other three represent federal, state, and local governments and the water jets represent the 50 United States.
Most nights the lights shine red, white and blue at the Freedom Fountain, but they were lit in green for St. Patrick’s Day when I was there.
The Lejeune Memorial Gardens are located just outside the gates of Camp Johnson in a publicly accessible park. It beautifully honors the legacy of our nation’s armed services and Carolina’s own Marines in this quiet, peaceful place for reflection, and the significance of each of the memorials will be equally appreciated by residents, military and visitors alike.
Lejeune Memorial Gardens: Montford Landing Rd, Jacksonville, NC 28541
For more information: VisitJacksonvilleNC.com
Comments & Reviews
Robin Rue says
Being married to a vet, this place sounds extra special to me. I would love to visit these gardens.
Tonya Wilhelm says
That memorial is really stunning. The Freedom Fountain is amazing. I love that they changed it to green for St. Patrick’s Day. Very pretty.
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
My husband would love it there. He is big into military history, and I like that it honors our fallen servicemen.
Colleen Lanin says
Lejeune Memorial Gardens is a wonderful place. It is so beautiful, and it’s a great place to teach kids about how much our servicemen and women sacrifice for us.
Vera Sweeney says
That looks like such a beautiful place to visit. I love taking the kids to places like this because it helps move the sacrifices others have made for us away from an abstract idea and to a concrete fact.
A place that honors our military is awesome in my book. If I can ever get out there I would love to honor them by going to this place. It looks like it is a beautiful place to visit.
Neha Saini says
The 243 people who lost their lives in 1983, surely came in peace. And now the way they rest in peace is also great! Now I’ll have to pay this place a visit.
The Lejeune Memorial Gardens is a special place and honors the soldiers that have fallen so that they will never be forgotten. I am so glad that there is a Vietnam wall because those vets have had a very tough time on their return to the states. This is a place I would like to someday see.
Wow those are some amazing memorials. Any memorial is good of course as it honours the fallen but the ones near you are just breathtaking! Especially that glass one!
Chelley @ A is For Adelaide says
This looks like a really important memorial to see to share in our history… and sadly, I’d never heard of it. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Since I am unable to take off too much time from work this summer, I think we are going to try to make weekend trips around the area. North Carolina included. I do want to make a visit to Jacksonville. I’ll have to add this to our bucket list.
Neely Moldovan says
What a gorgeous place. Looks like it was a really pretty day too!
Saidah Washington says
You always keep us abreast of the fun places to visit. With my prior service in the army I love visiting memorials.
Kelly Hutchinson says
All three of my brothers were in Vietnam, so I appreciate seeing memorials to those fallen in the war. This is such a nice tribute to those who have served for our country. The Freedom Fountain is beautiful.
Lisa Collins says
What a beautiful place full of history. Definitely somewhere I’d like to stop if I’m in North Carolina.
How cool that it’s funded by public donations. That shows how much the American people care for our soldiers.
Claudia Krusch says
Lejeune Memorial Gardens looks like an amazing place to go explore. These memorials are done so well. I would love to see it in person.
Wow, those photos are great. I love sites like these. I would love to go here just to look at everything. What a beautiful view.
Ashleigh @Dash of Evans says
What a great memorial! We love to visit places like that when we travel…I’ll add to my NC list! Beautiful day to visit, too!
Janis @MommyBlogExpert says
I love American history and military history in particular. Lejeune Memorial Gardens looks like a wonderful place to visit for someone like me who is descended from patriots of the American Revolution.
Lisa Favre says
My husband lived in South Carolina for a few years and he would often visit North Carolina with his family. I should ask if he knows of this place!
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
This looks amazing!! Would love to visit here with my whole family! 😀
This is a great place to visit!! I wish I can visit with my family!!
Dawn McAlexander says
How beautiful and yet somber this place must be. What an excellent memorial to fallen troops that gave their lives for our country. You have to respect that sacrifice.
Wow what a beautiful place! I will have to put this one down on my bucket.
What a beautiful place. The Freedom Fountain is exceptionally intriguing! Thanks for the tour 🙂
Reesa Lewandowski says
What a special place this is! I will have to add it to our places to see!
Amanda Love says
This is amazing! As someone who has served it feels great to have a place very dedicated to honoring soldiers. This place is definitely worthy of a visit.
Carol Cassara says
I haven’t fully explored the memorial gardens in Jacksonville before. I imagine how moving it is, especially when you see the tributes to those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Our Family World says
The Vietnam Memorial is so moving. I have so much respect for our soldiers. They are the reason why we still enjoy the freedom we have now. I would love to visit the other memorials too. I would love to pay my respects to the fallen.
I love historical places and these gardens look so beautiful too. I want to go!
Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says
We’re not that far from NC. I would love to visit these beautiful memorials on our next visit there!
Beeb Ashcroft says
What an amazing place to visit. I love how clean it is. It just adds to the respect.
What a stunning place to behold. The number of people who lost their lives during the Vietnam war is staggering.
Even though I am Canadian my husband is in the military and the sacrifices of these brave men and women humble me. My husband would love to visit here if we ever make it to North Carolina.
Makes my heart stop. Hurrah to those who take the time to make such a place of honor so beautiful.
Marielle Altenor says
The memorial gardens would make a great educational trip for the whole family! The Freedom Fountain is breathtaking!
Cassie Tucker says
Having lived in the area, I know how proud everyone in NC is of the Marines and Camp Lejeune. The memorial gardens are lovely and I’m sad I never got to visit it.
Joyce Brewer says
What a wonderful memorial. I’m teaching our son about his grandfather’s military experience during the Korean War. Thanks for introducing us to this park if we’re ever nearby.
Wow this looks like ab eautiful place to visit! I’ve neverr heard of it before but I’ll have to add this to my bucket list!
You always do great historical coverage. This is a very nice memorial!
Shannon Gurnee says
Wow – that looks like an amazing place to visit. I bet it was very emotional visiting too.
Bill Blandine says
What a great looking place. It’s on my list to go see. But what I’d really like is a copy of the Eagle/globe/anchor sculpture Does anyone know where I can get one?