Photo Information

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - General Michael W. Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Lt. Col. James S. Alley, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, march toward the wall of the monument to lay the ceremonial wreath. The Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony is held annually to remember those who lost their lives Oct. 23, 1983. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

Photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

Marines, civilians honor those who "Came in Peace"

23 Oct 2005 | Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

“Oct. 23, 1983. For Onslow County, it was a day that will live in infamy,” said Maj. Gen. Robert C. Dickerson, the commanding general for Marine Corps Installations East.Civilians and service members gathered together Sunday at the Beirut Memorial in front of Camp Johnson to pay tribute to those who “Came in Peace.” This year’s guest speaker at the observance ceremony was Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps.“For most of us Marines, that day is seared into our memories,” said Hagee. “I was a young major at the time, and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out. I will remember that until the day I die.”In the early morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a terrorist-driven truck loaded with explosives, drove into and destroyed 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s headquarters building. The resulting explosion and the collapse of the building killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers.Nicholas J. Mottola, a former combat engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, was on-ship with the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit when the bombing occurred.“We were on our way to relieve the Marines in Beirut when it happened,” said Mottola. “As soon as we heard what happened, we were ready to get over there, kick some [butt] and take care of business.”Since the memorial’s commission in 1986, an annual observance has been held for all who wish to participate.“We’ll do this forever, as long as the city of Jacksonville is here,” said Jan B. Slagle, Jacksonville’s mayor. “Those precious Marines and sailors will never be forgotten.”Following his remarks, Hagee, along with Dickerson, participated in a ceremonial laying of wreaths at the foot of the monument to commemorate those Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice.“We struggle to find the words to say to those who lost loved ones during this tragedy,” said Hagee. “I wish we could say, as with many anniversaries, that this is a time for a peaceful remembrance, that we gathered here today to commemorate a danger that has long since passed. But, unfortunately, we cannot.”For Mottola, this is his first time attending the ceremony since he got out of the Marine Corps in 1984.“Many of my friends and fellow Marines died in the fighting that ensued as a result of the attack,” said Mottola. “I came here for some closure.”The legacy of those 273 Marines, sailors and soldiers who lost their lives in Lebanon between 1982-1984, is being honored today by the valiant men and women of armed forces continuing the fight against terrorists and extremists, according to Hagee.“America did not wish to send Marines abroad, but we sent them,” said Hagee. “We did not ask for violence, we answered. We did not end this war on terror, but we will end it.”