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West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Marion Ellsworth Kees

"Our flag honors those who have fought to protect it, and is a reminder of the sacrifice of our nation’s founders and heroes. As the ultimate icon of America’s storied history, the Stars and Stripes represents the very best of this nation."

Joe Barton

Marion Ellsworth Kees was born on September 3, 1948, in Martinsburg, Berkeley County, West Virginia. He was raised by his parents Harvey and Marian Evelyn Kees during his years as a child and young teen. He was the only child of his family, but he had a strong relationship with his parents. Growing up, Marion soon made a friend named Richard E. Hutzler at the age of four. “We were like brothers,” Hutzler said in an interview with the press. “We were real devilish!” They were best friends and even regarded themselves as brothers. They were always together and loved to take bike rides together on mini-bikes, but they preferred motorcycles as they grew older. The teachers always shook their heads at them, as they had an inseparable bond. (Pat Maio, “Kees Dies in Beirut,” Martinsburg Evening Journal, 7 November 1983, A1, A3.) Marion attended Musselman High School near Martinsburg, West Virginia, and joined the Navy shortly thereafter.

When he joined the Navy in 1968, he served upon the USS Intrepid for six months and served in Vietnam. He soon became a hospital corpsman and won an award for superior performance at the Naval Medical Center, where he served as a medical supply officer for two years until 1982. He was then assigned to the military compound at Beirut International Airport. Shortly after arriving in Lebanon, he would be killed by terrorists.

USS Austin LPD-4 1983 Cruise Book photo of H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Division

A civil war had been raging between the Maronite and the Palestinian forces starting in 1975. Lebanon had built a powerful private army, which was the strongest in the Lebanese Civil War. This army conquered most of Mount Lebanon and the Chouf District (the administrative district of Lebanon). Their main adversaries were the Maronite Christian Phalangist Militia and the Lebanese Forces Militia, who were opposed to the idea of a westernized government. Muslims in the area wanted the government to become part of the United Arab Republic, but President Camille feared they would try to topple their government, so he called for the United States to enter the struggle. At this point in time, the United States was already engaged in the Cold War.

The Cold War stemmed from the rivalry that sprang from the Second World War. This diplomatic struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union (and their political allies) was waged on political, economic, and propaganda fronts. By 1948, the Soviets had installed left-winged governments in countries of Eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army. Both the United States and Great Britain feared permanent Soviet domination in Europe and the threat of communist parties entering democracies in the area. On the other hand, the Soviets wanted to control Europe to safeguard from attacks against Germany if they were to become a threat again. They were intent on spreading the ideas of communism around the globe for ideological reasons. The Cold War finally solidified after the United States had decided to westernize Europe under the Marshall Plan.

The reason for the information above is to give the reader insight into what the world was feeling during this time period because it had a major effect on why the United States entered the Lebanese conflict. This was shown in the Lebanese Civil War. At the time, Lebanon had a democratic government that had to be run by people with particular religions, Muslims and Christians, to balance the government. The two groups were always shifting in population, so the balance in their parliament also shifted as a result. Many countries were involved in the overthrowing of this government for their own particular reasons. Syria was one of the main contributors to the toppling of this government. The Lebanese Civil War broke out for power and for a new form of government in the area. The United States wanted to prevent a war in the area by sending troops to the region, but this ended after the terrorist attacks that killed U.S. service members. (Sources: “Cold War History,”, 2009, accessed 24 January 2018,; United States Department of State, Office of the Historian, “The Reagan Administration and Lebanon, 1981–1984,” accessed 24 January 2018, Troops were recalled, but those that lost their lives still remain in the hearts of their loved ones.


Headstone for HM2 Marion E. Kees, Gerrardstown Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Courtesy Monte Harding, Find A Grave

Early in the morning, on October 23, 1983, two cars laden with explosives detonated around the Marines’ barracks. Hundreds of people inside, including Marion Kees, were sound asleep before the car bombs exploded. After the explosions, extensive damage had been done to the building causing it to collapse onto the sleeping soldiers. Among those that were killed were 220 Marines, 18 Navy sailors, and 3 Army soldiers. Marion Kees was one of the Navy men killed in the attack. At the time, no one was sure who was responsible for this attack, but eventually the Free Islamic Revolution Movement took responsibility for the attack. People searched through the rubble for bodies and any injured Marines, but few were found. After the bodies were recovered, they were brought back home to have a funeral and be buried by the family. Marion Kees was buried in the Gerrardstown Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Berkeley County, West Virginia, as a Hospital Corpsman Second Class.

Nathan Hamrick and Haley Lively, George Washington High School JROTC
December 2017


Marion Ellsworth Kees

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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