Sunday, October 18, 2015

How the 1983 Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing Changed
My Life – Forever  

In October 1983, I was the Assistant Flight Sergeant, responsible for law enforcement duties at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany.  A couple of days after the worst attack suffered by the US Marine Corps took place in Beirut, Lebanon, the bodies of the dead Marines were brought to Rhein Main via two C-141 transport aircraft.

 I was standing on the tarmac waiting for the aircraft to taxi over and park.  A third aircraft with the Commandant of the Marine Corps arrived almost simultaneously.  His plane was suppose to go over to the VIP lounge at the control tower, where various dignitaries were waiting.  So I didn’t think too much of it when the plane landed and taxied toward the control tower. 

After the two C141’s parked next to each other, the rear cargo doors opened.  One and then the other.  All I could see were metal caskets.  Both planes were full.  From the deck to the ceiling - FULL! 

As the ground crew was moving the k-loaders into position, I saw out of the corner of my eye, the “follow me truck“ racing across the parking ramp.  It was going fast, too fast - well over the speed limit allowed for the parking ramp.

As I turned and walked toward the vehicle to tell the driver to slow down.  It stopped just short of me and out of the passenger’s door jumped Gen PX Kelly, USMC Commandant.  As he walked toward me,  I saluted him.  He returned my salute and said to me, “Sarge, are those my boys?”.  I answered, “Yes, sir.” And he and I stood there until every one of HIS Marines were taken off the plane.

I wish I could say, that while I stood there I had profound reflective thoughts but I didn’t.  Those didn’t come until a few days later.  When it hit me, I thought of those Marines.  They were MY Marines, too.  No, they were OUR Marines.  Anyone of them could have been a son, a brother, a dad or an uncle to anyone of us.  They were the sons, brothers, fathers and uncles of all Americans.  Not just his and not just mine.  They were OURS! 

They had taken an oath to protect America “from all enemies…”.  I had taken the same oath.  So, from that day forward, I was going to do everything in my power, however small in my little piece of the universe it was, to prevent  this kind of thing from happening again. 

I’ve spent the last 30+ years fulfilling that promise to myself and OUR Marines.

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