Today marks 35 years since a terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon took the lives of 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors.
They were on a peace-keeping mission in Beirut, when a terrorist drove a truck full of explosives into a Marine Regiment Headquarters building. Many of them were stationed at Camp Lejeune, including my father, Colonel Miles Burdine. We interviewed him live on the morning show today about what happened that day and why it’s important to remember. I’ve heard my dad talk about this day and the friends he lost countless times, but every time it moves me and everyone else who listens to tears. It’s where my dad was when I was born and I didn’t meet him until 6 months later. But I am one of the lucky ones, many other families never saw their loved ones again.
I cannot begin to imagine what he saw that day, but as he says, it is his duty to remember and to talk about what happened. Do a quick google search… very few news articles will pop up about the Beirut attacks. The news station I work for probably wouldn’t have aired anything at all had it not been for my personal connection. Many people aren’t even aware this ever happened.
“It was 6:22 in the morning, October 23rd 1983. It was a Sunday morning in Lebanon, Saturday here in America. A bomber, who was later traced back here to one of our enemies who had attended his own funeral a couple of days before the attack, drove a flat bed truck with gas cylinders enhanced by explosives, drove the truck in circles to gather up speed, crashed through the Marine gate, drove inside the barracks, detonated the bomb and killed 241 Marines. Many of them were impaled, some of them burnt, some of them crushed. Some of them never found,” Colonel Burdine said.
He says he keeps in touch with many of the survivors and their families to this day. “This day touches my family, Nikki was actually born on June 10th of 1983 while I was in Beirut. That in itself is a wonderful story. Today is a sad day, but it’s also a day of remembrance. Some people call it the anniversary but Marines call it a day of remembrance because it is a day when we like to remember Lt. Joe Boccia, GySgt Matilde Hernandez, Captain Bill Winter, 1st Sgt Tandy Wells, Lt Chuck Schnorf, Captain Pete Schillaba, GySgt Alvin Belmer, the list goes on and on and on. It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t want to talk about what happened over there. But I was reminded by one of my best friends, Colonel Chuck Dallachie, who told me it was my duty to remember. So that’s the reason I grant these interviews now.”
“Terry Valor was the 3rd lowest rank in the Marine Corps, Lance Corporal, and I’m supposed to be leading him, but on this particular day he lead me. Lance Corporal Valor was sent to us because there was not enough room on the ships. When I walked into check on Lance Corporal Valor in the hospital which is behind the embassy where I was stationed that particular time. The doctor had me put on some gloves and a robe, to avoid the risk of infection, and Lance Corporal Valor, who was a Caucasian but his skin was completely black because his skin had been burnt by the explosion. The doctor asked me a question, and Lance Corporal Valor realized there was a Marine in the room when I answered and he asked me what happened. He reached up to grab the flag on my uniform to verify I was a Marine then touched my rank and realized I was a Lt, he said sir what happened? I tried to describe to him when I was holding his hand. He eventually as I was asking him if he wanted anything for his pain, he said no. He was asking about specific Marines, which I couldn’t answer. He took my hand and shoved it away and said, go find out sir. Go find out about these Marines. Now I’m not used to taking orders from Lance Corporals, but I did on this particular day. I went over to pull open the door and he said, “Semper Fidelis sir.” I responded, best I could, Semper Fidelis Lance Corporal Valor.
When I returned I assumed the worst had happened, I got back to America to tell his family how proud I was of him. Lance Corporal Valor had survived. So today, he and I will talk some time, and we will remember,” says Colonel Burdine. “I hope America never forgets.”