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Hundreds gather outside Lejeune to honor victims of Beirut bombing

READ MORE: Hundreds gather outside Lejeune to honor victims of Beirut bombing
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JACKSONVILLE, NC (WWAY) -- Nearly three decades later, the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, still lingers. October 23, 1983, was the deadliest day the Corps had seen since Iwo Jima.

"That is our duty to remember and these are my comrades," said Jake Schneider, a survivor of the bombing. "It could be my name on that wall."

A man driving a hijacked truck detonated a bomb, killing 241 US service members, many of whom were from Camp Lejeune's 1st Battalion 8th Marines. Hundreds gathered to remember that day and honor those they lost during an annual ceremony in Jacksonville.

"I come here with a humble heart honoring all of those men whose names are on the wall," said Steve Ryan, who came to remember a close friend who died in the bombing. "My friend and everyone else on this wall are true American heroes. They went in defense of freedom. They did not go as combatants, they went as peacekeepers to defend freedoms and defend rights."

The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford was the special guest speaker at the ceremony.

"We lost husbands, fathers, little league coaches, members of our church," Dunford said. "We lost men who made a difference in our lives and in the world. We lost marines who carried on the proud tradition of our corps and unhesitatingly performed their duty."

For Americans, Beirut was the first in a string of terrorist attacks leading up to 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though October 23 is a day of sadness for many, it also serves to remind the nation of the continuing threat terrorism poses as well as the sacrifice those service members made.

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Honor

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that lost loved ones that day. Hindsight is 20/20, but if we would have known then what we know today - that this was the beginning of a concerted effort on the terrorists mind to destroy Americans - perhaps our government would have been more diligent in hunting down and prosecuting those responsible. Perhaps they would have been more aware of what was going on and what could be coming.

Those in the military - both men and women - are my heroes. Forget the celebrities, the ballplayers and all those that people look up to. They are self serving egos that only look out for themselves and look out for the money. Our military protect us every day, and some make the ultimate sacrifice and leave those who love them to miss them and to cherish the memories.

Thank you families for sharing them with us.

Actually, they were getting back at us

In order to understand the attacks of 23 October 1983 you have to understand the events of September '83 when the United States and France conducted fire missions and air strikes in support of the Lebanese factions that we and Israel felt offered the greates chance for future stability. "Peacekeepers" were blatantly supporting one side in the Lebanese civil war over the other, with the USS New Jersey firing on a mountain village and the French dropping bombs in the Bekka Valley, on an airstrike rumored to have been called in by Israeli FACs. (That was never confirmed)

Once again, stupid political decisions resulted in a lot of men getting killed for no reason at all. We lost 241 and the French, in a separate bombing, lost several dozen.

In addition to losing friends I saw one of the finest Marines I ever knew, Colonel Tim Geraghty, watch his career evaporate in front of him when he was blamed for the lack of a timely response caused by rules of engagement that had been imposed upon him by Washington.

Saddest fact? Colonel Geraghty had vemently argued against the naval gunfire mission that we paid for on October 23rd.