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David Lee Cosner
Courtesy Jeff Hamman, Beirut Memorial On Line

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


David Lee Cosner

"Those who fail to study their history and learn from its lessons are destined to repeat it."

George Santayana

In November 1763, Phillip Peter Cosner (Casner) and his young family left their home in Germany and emigrated from Rotterdam by way of Cowes on the Isle of Wight aboard the ship Chance. Upon arrival in America, they made their home in Germantown, a Quaker and Mennonite community in northwest Philadelphia. Later they moved to Hardy County, Virginia, which until 1786 had been part of Hampshire County. The Cosner families resided in the portion of Hardy County that after the Civil War was partitioned off in 1866 to become Grant County, now West Virginia.

David Lee Cosner was born at Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia, on May 6, 1961. His father, Harold Lee "Red" Cosner, and his mother, Marva Lynn Grose Cosner, were united in marriage in the Monterey Methodist Church in Monterey, Virginia, on October 29, 1960. Harold Lee Cosner's parents were Luther Jacob Cosner and Elda Mae Phares Cosner. They are buried in Mountain State Memorial Gardens near Elkins, West Virginia. Marva Lynn Grose Cosner's parents were Aaron Grose and Opal Wilma Rooney Grose. Harold and Marva made their home in Elkins, West Virginia, and their children were David Lee, Jeffrey Aaron, and Lori Lynn.

Following graduation from Elkins High School in 1979, David briefly served in the U.S. Army National Guard. Until his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps on June 1, 1982, he was employed by Webb Ford Sales in Elkins. David was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team:BLT 1/8), the ground combat element of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit.

Following the declaration of independence by the state of Israel in 1948 that led to the Arab-Israeli War, many Palestinian refugees fled to Lebanon. Additional Palestinians were forced to relocate to Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan in 1970 as a result of an event known as Black September, when the PLO attempted to overthrow the ruling family of Jordan.

The large influx of Palestinians into Lebanon resulted in a change in the demographic balance which favored the Muslims. The PLO waged guerrilla warfare with the goal of bringing about rule by Muslim clerics. Because of the threat that it posed to Israel, the Israeli government launched an invasion in 1982 in an attempt to force the PLO out of Lebanon. In September 1982, the assassination of Lebanese President-elect Bachir Gamayel aggravated the already unstable situation brought about by the civil war in Lebanon. Gamayel and the Lebanese forces had been supported by the Israeli Defense Force. A multinational peacekeeping force was sent to Beirut to protect the Beirut International Airport.

In May 1983, the USS Austin (LPD-4) departed from Morehead City, North Carolina, with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines (BLT 1/8), and the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU 24) aboard. They arrived in Beirut and replaced the forces that had been assigned to protect the Beirut International Airport.

On Sunday morning October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden truck into the lobby of the Marine barracks at the airport and detonated it, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers. Lance Corporal David Lee Cosner lost his life during that attack.

The ferocity of the attack is difficult to fathom. A Marine major who was a veteran of the Vietnam War stated that he had not seen such carnage since Vietnam. David's mother held out hope that he was not one of the casualties, although she had a premonition he was. Thus it was not a surprise when a Marine officer knocked on their door.


Lance Corporal David Lee Cosner's military marker in Mountain State Memorial Gardens. Courtesy Stephanie Hill-Roy, on Find A Grave

Lance Corporal David Lee Cosner's flag-draped coffin arrived at Dover Air Force Base on Sunday, October 30, 1983. Funeral services were conducted at the Lohr Funeral Home in Elkins on Wednesday, November 2, followed by burial in the Mountain State Memorial Gardens with full military honors. He was survived by his parents, his siblings, and his two-and-a-half year old daughter, Leanna Brooks Cosner.

On June 2, 1985, a ceremony was held at the Randolph County Courthouse in Elkins to dedicate a Beirut memorial to honor the five West Virginia service men who died during the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks. The memorial was dedicated by Governor Arch Moore and Elkins Mayor Joseph Martin.

Lance Corporal David Lee Cosner is also remembered at a bridge named in his honor. It is located in Randolph County on West Virginia Route 219 north of Elkins. Courtesy Lynda Davis

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout
June 2017


David Lee Cosner

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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