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Local veterans donate flags to build Memorial Gardens  

By: KEITH PHUCAS, Times Herald Staff
10/19/2006

UPPER MERION - As the casualty count in the global war against Islamic extremists rises, discovery of a forgotten cache of American flags was just what Rich McDonough needed for his memorial.

McDonough, who created the "World War III" memorial, Respond With Love Flag Garden, commemorates Americans and foreigners killed by terrorist acts since 1983 with an annual display in Plymouth Township Bicentennial Park.

"We include anybody killed on U.S. soil," he said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7878 learned that the thousands of flags veterans placed on gravesites at Valley Forge Memorial Gardens on Memorial Day for years had been collected by groundskeepers and stored in a cemetery cellar.

On Wednesday, post veterans gave 1,200 flags to McDonough.

There are still about 3,500 more in the cellar for him. He figures the donation will save his memorial sponsors about $4,000.

"Each flag is about a buck," he said.

For McDonough, the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 marked the beginning of what he calls World War III. Between 1983 and Sept. 16, 2006, terrorism and war have claimed the lives of 7,327 Americans and others. In September, 7,327 flags were displayed at the local park.

On April 18, 1983, 63 people were killed at the embassy in Beirut by a truck bomb, according to a State Department publication, "Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961-2003: A Brief Chronology."

Six months later, 242 Americans - including 220 U.S. Marines - died when a truck exploded at military compounds in Beirut. The blast killed 42 other American servicemen.

In 1985, Palestinian terrorists seized the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea, taking more than 700 hostages. An American, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered and dumped overboard in his wheelchair.

According to "Saddam Hussein's Philanthropy of Terror," by Deroy Murdock, the hijacking's mastermind, Abu Abbas, escaped capture by fleeing Italy on an Iraqi diplomatic passport to Yugoslavia. In 1994, Abbas found safe harbor in Iraq, where U.S. soldiers captured him in 2003.

Iraq also harbored infamous terrorist Abu Nidal from 1999 till 2002, according to Murdock. The Abu Nidal Organization killed hundreds, including 20-year-old John Buonocore, of Wilmington, Del., who died in the 1985 attack on Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport.

Iraqi Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was indicted for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, that killed six people, fled to Iraq after the attack and remains there.

McDonough's casualty total includes 2,996 people and two law enforcement canines killed on September 11, 2001.

Another 2,666 U.S. military personnel have died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He hopes to spread the memorial garden idea across the country.

"What we'd like to do is put these gardens around the United States, and this (flag donation) will help in that effort," he said.

©The Times Herald 2006

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