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On March 15, 2023 at 10 am Charlotte County will host a special groundbreaking event located at the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in Port Charlotte FL to begin construction of the Beirut Peacekeepers Tower.

This groundbreaking comes as we approach the 40th Anniversary of the Beirut Bombing on October 23, 1983 that killed 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and 3 Soldiers in a suicide attack on the building serving as a barracks and headquarters for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines. There were over 80 other military personnel who were wounded and survived the bombing.  

Thurnell “Chip” Shields is one of those who was wounded and survived. Chip served 20 years in the Marines and reserves, and then joined the Hillsborough County Florida Fire Rescue. After serving as a firefighter/paramedic for 28 years, Chip retired in the summer of 2021. 

At the groundbreaking, Chip will share his personal story of service to his country and community, along with the significance of the Beirut Peacekeepers Tower for him and other Beirut Veterans who served during the peacekeeping mission. It is a story of grace and dedication to the service of others.

Chip is a board member of the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Foundation. He has been a part of the public and private partnership between Charlotte County and the State of Florida to help build this tower.  Bill Gaines Jr. was a Marine from Charlotte County who was among the 241 killed on Oct. 23. The park is dedicated to Veterans and First Responders, highlighting the connection they have in protecting our freedoms. Information about the park can be found at