In the early morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a truck packed with explosives slammed into the barracks holding sleeping Marines and sailors with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, acting as the battalion landing team for the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit.
Marine veteran and Indiana Republican Rep. Greg Pence on Oct. 16 introduced a resolution to the House of Representatives to designate Oct. 23, 2020, a national day of remembrance.
“Having the day of remembrance ... that’s what Semper Fi is all about,” Pence told Marine Corps Times in a Wednesday interview.
The resolution only would have marked Oct. 23, 2020, as a day of remembrance, but ultimately Pence wants to pass a resolution that would permanently mark Oct. 23 as an official day to honor the Marines, sailors and soldiers who died.
“I will continue to try and get this to be a permanent remembrance,” Pence said. “I won’t give up.”
Beirut bombing survivor who was under rubble for more than two hours tells his story, remembers Marines who died
The bombing was the largest single-day loss of life in the Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
As a young Marine infantry officer, Pence spent nearly a month in Lebanon with a Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of the multinational forces trying to end the civil war the country had been fighting since the mid-70s.
Pence, part of the weapons company with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, was excited at the potential for combat and volunteered to be one of the first Marines in his battalion to go ashore in September 1983, he told Marine Corps Times.
However, his time in Lebanon was short.
On Sept. 14, 1983, the U.S. forces provided supporting fires to the Lebanese armed forces and the U.S. Marines in Beirut ― leading to a ceasefire on Sept. 25, 1983, according to a Department of Defense investigation into the barracks bombing.
“That was considered a little bit of a victory and its why we got back on our ships went back through the Suez Canal and headed out,” Pence said.
It was roughly two weeks after the MEU left the country that the barracks was bombed.
“All those guys laid down their life, and I was very honored to help them out,” Pence said.
Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, Gil Cisneros, D-California and Salud Carbajal D-California all signed the resolution as co-sponsors.
Gallagher and Carbajal are both Marine veterans while Cisneros served in the Navy. It is their military veteran status that brought all four lawmakers together, Pence said.
“I want to laud my fellow Marines... for immediately supporting me,” Pence said. “That’s what Marines do."
“This day will forever be ingrained in my heart. As a Beirut Veteran, I was shipped out of the Beirut barracks only days before this horrific attack,” Pence said in a press release. “I was able to come home to my wife, who was expecting our first child, and my family in Columbus. Unfortunately, so many of my friends and fellow Marines were not able to do so. I promised I would never forget them, and this is part of that promise.”