Beirut, 19 years later

23 Oct 2002 | Pfc. Sharon E. Fox

"We are here today to ensure that we never forget what those Marines and sailors in Beirut did to secure the freedom of our great nation 19 years ago. They truly came in peace to do what Marines have been doing for 227 years: going in harms way to do something bigger than one's self," said Lieutenant General Emil R. Bedard, Deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Plans, Policies and Operations.Men, women and children from all over the country gathered Oct. 23 to pay their respects to the 241 Marines and Sailors of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 24th Marine Amphibious Unit who lost their lives for freedom in Beirut, Lebanon, 19 years ago.The 2d Marine Division Band played during the ceremony, and a 1st Battalion, 8th Marines color guard posted the colors.Guest speakers included Bedard, Maj. Gen. David M. Mize, Camp Lejeune commanding general, and retired Marine Maj. Robert Jordan, the Public Affairs officer in Beirut during the incident."I thought the Memorial Ceremony was a very moving event that gave beautiful and well-deserved recognition to our Beirut heroes," said Mize. "The conduct of the ceremony did a great job of showing our earnest commitment to the strongly held pledge that 'we will never forget.'"Tears in friends,' family members' and veterans' eyes who attended the ceremony made it apparent they have not forgotten their loved ones' bravery."I lost everybody that day (in Beirut). It's hard remembering what happened, but at the same time, I attend these memorial services because I don't want to forget what my fellow Marines and sailors gave up. 'Always faithful' is the Marine Corps motto, and I will forever carry that with me," said former 1/8 Sgt. Rodney Burnette.Family members embraced one another as they listened to various speakers acknowledge the sorrow and significance of the lives lost that day."Today is about remembering what they gave up. It is a reminder of what we ask of our men and women (in the military)," said Bedard.At 6:22 a.m. Lebanese time, Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, a five-ton Mercedes truck, loaded with explosives, charged into the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 of the 300 Marines and sailors who lived there."It's hard to believe that almost 20 years have passed," Jordan. "Each generation fights in hopes they can eliminate the need to go to war. Beirut was what that generation paid for, and now, men and women around the globe are fighting for the same cause."Many speakers at the ceremony expressed the significance of the attacks in Beirut in relation to the current war against terrorism."Nearly two decades later, we are engaged in a global conflict," said Bedard. "What happened in Beirut reflects upon the efforts of this war (against terrorism). When Marines take an oath of allegiance, they swear 'To defend the U.S. against all enemies foreign and domestic.' Marines will continue to be ready for anyone who attacks our freedom. Though we all may not be physically fighting, we are all involved in this war against terrorism.""The war we fight today is so important," added Burnette. "It is important that we continue this fight, and hopefully, someday, we can live in a world where I know my daughter will be safe and understand the joys of her freedom."Another strong theme expressed at the memorial was one of making the world a safer place for future generations. "There will continue to be those in the military who fight for our freedom," said Jordan. "The future of our military is so important."As the future of our Corps and recent addition to our military community, Pfc. Neville A. Smith listened carefully to what the speakers had to say."It's upsetting thinking about what happened that day, but it's good to know that I am here to do something about it. If the time comes when we have to go to war, I will be ready to go and fight for the freedom of these United States that I was lucky enough to grow up in," said the 18-year-old."It's hard to think of the men and women who've fought and given their lives for their country. Looking at young Marines and the veterans here, we see the cycle of honor, courage and commitment continue," added Jordan. "They have to persevere, and they do. Our faithful men and women are ready for anything our adversaries throw their way. Readiness and strength -- that's what being a Marine is all about."