COLUMBUS — On Wednesday, Ohio 80th District State Representative Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), along with local resident Steven Smiley, testified in front of the House Transportation Committee in Columbus on House Bill 452, which will designate a portion of State Route 55 in Miami County as the “PFC Marc L. Cole Memorial Highway.”
Marc L. Cole — a 1982 Milton-Union High School graduate — served in the United States Marine Corps and was deployed to Lebanon with the international peacekeeping forces during the Lebanese Civil War.
Cole, 19 at the time of his death, was killed in action on Oct. 23, 1983, during the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, along with 240 other members of the US military.
The 1983 Beirut barracks bombings were attacks that occurred on the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, during the Lebanese Civil War when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing Multinational Force in Lebanon Peacekeepers. This attack was attack was targeted specifically against United States and French service members, killing 241 U.S. and 58 French peacekeepers and six civilians.
Two suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, the death toll was 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. This incident was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens in general prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, and the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens overseas. Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 21,000 pounds of TNT.
“Marc was a friend of mine and graduated a year before me at Milton-Union High School. He was from Ludlow Falls, Ohio, and was known to all as a patriotic and honorable man,” Huffman said. “He lived a life of service to his country and courageously died a hero when he was just 19 years old. This legislation will commemorate his memory and the perfect devotion he gave in pursuit of protecting and promoting freedom.”
Smiley — a close friend and football teammate of Marc Cole, and his sister, Jodi Cole of Ludlow Falls — in his testimony, said the announcement of PFC Cole’s death was a “where were you” moment in the Miami County community.
“I was sitting in front of a black and white TV with several friends in Fairborn, Ohio, attending Wright State University, when I heard CBS news anchor Dan Rather list PFC Marc Cole as one of the first Marines confirmed dead. Others will tell you they were in class at Milton-Union schools when the principal came on the public address system with the announcement of PFC Cole’s death. Some will tell you they were away at college and their parents or siblings called them from home to give them the news of his death.
“Here we are 35 year later and it is still an emotional topic at our class reunions and high school get togethers,” Smiley said.
Smiley said it is only fitting that the section of State Route 55 at the intersection of State Route 571, be named after PFC Marc Cole as it contains the home in which he was raised.
“Naming this road for PFC Cole is not for his classmates nor his family, for we will never forget. As with all memorials, it is for future generations to be reminded of the courage and valor exhibited by nearly 300 servicemen who lost their lives on a peacekeeping mission,” Smiley said.
Smiley said he hopes the road naming will be a tribute to Cole’s memory long into the future.
“It is my hope that junior high and high school students as well as travelers in the West Milton, Ludlow Falls, and Miami County area will notice the sign stating ‘PFC Marc Cole Memorial Highway’ and their interest will be peaked enough to research who he was,” Smiley said. “I hope the children ask their parents and friends of their parents about him and if they knew him. I hope they all have a story to tell about Marc. And I hope that every person who sees that sign will remember the price that was paid, in a faraway land, by a good, young, local man who wanted to serve his country and who wanted to make a difference.”
Cole was 19 years old when he was killed in Beirut, Smiley said.
“Like so many who have died in the line of service for our country at an early age, he did not have a chance to leave a legacy like we have the opportunity to do. He didn’t have a chance to get married, have children, serve his church and community, mentor others, or coach a little league team,” Smiley said. “He didn’t get a chance to run for public office, become a business owner or plan for retirement. But PFC Marc Cole’s legacy is a legacy of service and a legacy of teamwork. It’s a legacy of respect from his fellow classmates for his desire to serve his country. How he and others fearlessly went into a hostile, war torn area unarmed, to attempt to restore peace should be recognized.”
The bill was unanimously voted out of committee, and will move forward for further consideration. The bill will now move for consideration on the House floor, then it will move to the Senate for committee and a full session vote. Once approved by the Senate, it will then go to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.