Recollecting a Winter of Sorrow

1983 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Was Beirut, Training And NC State Basketball

I was assigned to 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines in 1983 and much of our time was devoted to training and watching events unfold in Beirut Lebanon. We also found time for the greatest NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament ever played with Coach Valvano and NC State winning it all in cliffhanger fashion.

Air Alert and Cherry Point North Carolina

To provide support to the Marines in Beirut, if needed, a Battalion of Marines at Camp Lejeune was kept on alert and ready to depart within a few hours of being notified. Many of the Battalions remaining at Camp Lejeune rotated this assignment every few weeks. Formations and recalls were constant to ensure we could meet our timelines for departure. We were taken to Cherry Point a number of times and sat on the side of the runway waiting to go.

Sunday, October 23, 1983 7:00am

This particular Sunday I was out early and heading to a local beach that happened to be located across the street from 2nd Force Recon Barracks. As I drove up I noticed a lot of unusual activity so I went over to talk with a Recon Marine I knew. He had a few minutes to fill me in about the bombing at the Marine Barracks. His unit was finishing preparations to leave for Beirut. I shook his hand and told him to stay safe.

Sunday October 23 1983 8:00am Shock and Disbelief.

When I arrived back at my unit news was quickly spreading. We had been on alert until earlier in the week and now we watched as the unit that took our place started the recall procedures. Through schools and training we all knew Marines who were then in Beirut. As the death toll mounted our shock and disbelief grew.

Confidence Shaken But Not Broken

We had a lot of faith in President Reagan and Senior Marine Corps Officers, such as General Alfred Grey, but we were aware of mistakes with the rules of engagement. We knew the sentries did not have their weapons loaded.

Memorials, Thanksgiving & Christmas 1983

During the following weeks and months many memorial services were held with President and Mrs. Regan attending on November 4th 1983. President Regan’s presence was a major source of comfort for everyone at Camp Lejeune. As Christmas approached my unit helped host a Christmas Party for families that had lost loved ones in the bombing. I have never experienced a more profoundly moving or touching scene.

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