NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the war between Israel and Hamas rages, many pause to remember the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors 40 years ago.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bombers detonated two truck bombs striking buildings that housed U.S. and French service members in Lebanon.
American losses included 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. Survivors — including News 2’s Nikki Burdine’s father, retired USMC Colonel Miles Burdine — reflect on the somber milestone.
“When the blast actually took place it was a Sunday in Beirut; it was Saturday night in America,” recalls Colonel Burdine. “So, when the blast took place, initially, there was a very, very loud blast, and I woke up and I said to another Marine, standing watch guarding me, ‘Hey Jarhead, what happened?’ and he said, ‘Sir, I don’t know, but there’s a very, very large pot of smoke over where the battalion headquarters is.'”
“So I got up, and immediately after that was another blast. Turned out it was the French headquarters, so I ran down to my post and that’s when I heard the radio chatter. ‘The headquarters is gone,’ and there was a sense of what in the world happened, but there’s also, how did that happen and what does that mean?” remembers Colonel Burdine.
The motto of the Beirut Veterans Association is ‘Our First Duty is to Remember.” Colonel Burdine and others who survived that day have vowed to never forget the sacrifice and legacy of those killed in the bombing.
It’s an attack not as commonly known in the US. “I think it’s sad and somewhat embarrassing that America does not always remember, or does not know, about what happened on 23rd of October in 1983,” said Burdine. “Our first duty is to remember, just like we remember what happened on D-Day, Iwo Jima, and in Korea and Vietnam. Our first duty is to remember.”
The attack is still hard to talk about for some Marines — including Burdine. “I was hesitant to talk about it for several reasons. One is it was a very, very painful day, but also, you know, we lost over 200 Marines that day, and to talk about whatever happened to them wasn’t easy,” he said. “It’s still not easy, but it’s something that needs to be done.”
The 40-year remembrance is now set against the backdrop of another conflict in the Middle East. For many Marines going to Israel to fight now, this mission is personal.
“I’m sure it is personal to them. It’s personal to me. Personally, I would love to go with them,” said Burdine. “These Marines that are being sent over there, I promise you, they are so eager. So ready to fight and kill our enemies.”
The U.S. is now redirecting the USS Eisenhower to the Middle East. A remembrance ceremony was held Sunday, Oct. 22 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina where many of the Marines who were killed in the attack were stationed.