Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N. C. -- In a remembrance ceremony at the Beirut Memorial April 20, former Marine sniper Andy Mull recalled how Marines stood at attention amidst the rubble of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut 30 years ago as the deceased body of Cpl. Robert McMaugh was carried out on a stretcher draped with an American flag.
Mull, from Cleveland, was among a small group of Marine veterans who travelled to Jacksonville, N.C., from as far as 700 miles to share their memories and honor the lives of those killed in the explosion.
Mull recalled the blast vividly, something bigger than most he had witnessed throughout the conflict. He described McMaugh as the friendliest embassy guard.
Mull also remembered other victims, like a local child with a fondness for Twinkies and embassy employees Monique and James Lewis, a married couple who were meeting at the embassy for lunch when the bomb struck.
Many survivors admit the embassy bombing is often overshadowed by the bombing of the Marine barracks months later when hundreds were killed. But to the veterans who witnessed the destruction first hand, the embassy bombing is a moment they continue to acknowledge and remember separately.
“We were affiliated with the Marines who lost their lives that day,” said Dave English, the president of Liberty Run Foundation, the group that organized the ceremony. “The embassy was the very first of a series of bombings that has affected our generation. It was the first time we ever witnessed anything like that first hand.”
Mull, English and some of the other veterans present are planning to return in October to commemorate the bombings at the Marine Barracks.
“It was a noble thing we tried to do in Beirut,” said Mull. “We were trying to bring peace and stability to a war-torn country. Those who were lost in the effort should be remembered. They were trying to bring hope to a city that needed it.”
The men who returned to remember the embassy bombings were in their 20s as corporals and sergeants in the Marine Corps. Some retired years later and some got out not long after the events in Beirut. However they celebrated their common bond as Marines in making the trek to Jacksonville thirty years later to commemorate the lives lost in the bombing.
“(McMough) was 20 when he was killed,” said Mull. “I was the same age at the time. I got to grow old and he didn’t. I’ll be 50 this year and he’s still 20. If I could talk to him again I think he would want me to remember him.”