On March 24th, 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit arrived on station in Lebanon. The Americans were a peace-keeping force attempting to pacify a civil war between several different Moslem and Christian factions in Lebanon. As the line between war and peace distingrated, the Moslem factions began to see the Americans as enemies and began firing mortars and rockets at the Marines guarding the Beirut airport.
Tomorrow marks the day, twenty-two years ago, that terrorist scum murdered 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and 3 Soldiers. Many more were wounded. Most of the Marines belonged 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and many of them resided in Jacksonville, NC. The Marines nearly lost an entire Battalion and a community lost over two hundred husbands, fathers and sons.
There will rememberance ceremonies wherever Marines are stationed over the weekend and one at Jacksonville attended by General Hagee, the Marine Corps Commandant and a former Commander of 1/8.
From President Reagan's address after the attack:
...May I share something with you I think you'd like to know? It's something that happened to the Commandant of our Marine Corps, General Paul Kelley, while he was visiting our critically injured Marines in an Air Force hospital. It says more than any of us could ever hope to say about the gallantry and heroism of these young men, young men who serve so willingly so that others might have a chance at peace and freedom in their own lives and in the life of their country.
I'll let General Kelley's words describe the incident. He spoke of a "young Marine with more tubes going in and out of his body than I have ever seen in one body."
"He couldn't see very well. He reached up and grabbed my four stars, just to make sure I was who I said I was. He held my hand with a firm grip. He was making signals, and we realized he wanted to tell me something. We put a pad of paper in his hand - and he wrote 'Semper Fi.' "
Well, if you've been a Marine or if, like myself, you're an admirer of the Marines, you know those words are a battle cry, a greeting, and a legend in the Marine Corps. They're Marine shorthand for the motto of the Corps - "Semper Fidelis" - "always faithful."
General Kelley has a reputation for being a very sophisticated general and a very tough Marine. But he cried when he saw those words, and who can blame him? That Marine and all those others like him living and dead, have been faithful to their ideals. They've given willingly of them selves so that a nearly defenseless people in a region of great strategic importance to the free world will have a chance someday to live lives free of murder and mayhem and terrorism. I think that young Marine and all of his comrades have given every one of us something to live up to.
They were not afraid to stand up for their country or, no matter how difficult and slow the journey might be, to give to others that last, best hope of a better future. We cannot and will not dishonor them now and the sacrifices they've made by failing to remain as faithful to the cause of freedom and the pursuit of peace as they have been.
I will not ask you to pray for the dead, because they're safe in God's loving arms and beyond need of our prayers. I would like to ask you all - wherever you may be in this blessed land - to pray for these wounded young men and to pray for the bereaved families of those who gave their lives for our freedom...
One final note, another suicide attack happened in Beirut at that same instance twenty two years ago. Another TNT laden truck crashed into the French peace-keepers barracks killing 50 French soldiers.