Midway between Beaufort and Wilmington, much of the coastline is taken over by the 100,000-acre U.S. Marine Corps base of Camp Lejeune, established during World War II and now home to the Weapons Training Battalion.
At the northwest corner of Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville (pop. 70,145) is little more than a civilian adjunct to the base, with all the gas stations, fast-food franchises, and tattoo parlors Lejeune’s 45,000-plus Marines and their dependents could want. One sobering sight is on the edge of town, just off Hwy-24 opposite a Sonic Drive-In: the 50-foot-long granite wall of the Beirut Memorial remembers the more than 220 Camp Lejeune Marines killed in Beirut in 1983 by a suicide bomber. Alongside a list of their names are the words “They Came in Peace.”