24 Years After Barracks Attack, Marines Still ‘Tip of the Spear’

The U.S. Marines were honored on the Senate floor Tuesday, the 24th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.  U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that although terrorists and suicide bombers are still with us today, “thankfully for America, so are the United States Marines.”

“By their courage on the battlefield, and constant risk of danger, today’s Marines honor every one of their forebears who died defending our country,” McConnell said.  “We continue to fight terror today with a steady hand, even if it is at times paired with a heavy heart.  And we are proud of the brave men and women who fight for their country.” 

On October 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck separate buildings in Beirut housing U.S. and French members of the Multinational Force who were stationed in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War.  The attack killed 241 American Marines, sailors and soldiers.  Several hours later, an organization called Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

The following are the Leader’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“I rise today in honor of the 241 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers who were killed in a despicable suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.  That attack occurred 24 years ago today on October 23, 1983. 

President Ronald Reagan had dispatched U.S. forces in 1982 to maintain the peace in Lebanon.  On the morning of October 23, one Lebanese terrorist drove a truck packed with explosives through three guard posts and a barbed-wire fence, straight into the lobby of the U.S. Marine Corps’ headquarters. 

The bomb exploded with the force of 18,000 pounds of dynamite.  It transformed the four-story cinderblock building into rubble. 

It was so powerful, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia later described it as ‘the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth.’ 

Some of the men and women lost that day were murdered in their sleep. Others, who saw the truck come crashing in, may have seen the face of the enemy as their last sight on Earth. 

Either way, 241 Americans wearing their country’s uniform were killed in a brutal attack that shocked America and the world. 

Five Kentuckians were among the 241 who died in that attack. They were: 

Private First Class Sidney James Decker, U.S. Marine Corps, of Clarkson, Ky.,

Lance Corporal Virgil D. Hamilton, U.S. Marine Corps, of McDowell, Ky., 

Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert S. Holland, U.S. Navy, of Gilbertsville, Ky.,

Sergeant Thomas C. Keown, U.S. Marine Corps, of Louisville, Ky., and 

Sergeant Daniel S. Kluck, U.S. Army, of Owensboro, Ky.

Terrorists and their favorite tactic, the suicide attack, are still with us today. 

Thankfully for America, so are the United States Marines. 

Founded in 1775, the U.S. Marine Corps has been ‘at the tip of the spear’ in every one of this nation’s wars.  And they will never be stopped by a terrorist’s suicide attack. 

This November, the country will celebrate the Corps’ 232nd birthday, and thank them for defending our freedoms. 

By taking the fight to the terrorists, wherever they hide, the Marines have put terrorists on the defensive, making it less likely they will hit us again here at home. 

By their courage on the battlefield, and constant risk of danger, today’s Marines honor every one of their forebears who died defending our country. 

Mr. President, America still remembers her brave men and women lost in the Marine barracks bombing of 1983.  We honor them and their families for their sacrifice. 

We continue to fight terror today with a steady hand, even if it is at times paired with a heavy heart.  And we are proud of the brave men and women who fight for their country against the would-be terrorists of today and tomorrow.”

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