JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY - The 30th annual Beirut Observance Ceremony in Jacksonville Wednesday morning experienced its biggest turnout ever. The event honored the victims of the Beirut barracks bombing three decades ago.
"October 23, 1983 -- a date remembered by many across the nation -- but no where else, I mean no where else, is it more truly felt than it is right here," said Brig. Gen. Robert Castellvi, commanding general of Camp Lejeune.
Officials said 3,300 people attended the ceremony at the Beirut Memorial, where Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, delivered an address.
The ceremony honored the 241 Americans who were killed in the Beirut bombing. Many of the victims were members of Camp Lejeune's 24th Marine Amphibious Unit.
A suicide truck-bomber attacked the military barracks in Lebanon's capital, home to an American peacekeeping force. A U.S. investigation blamed lax security for allowing the terrorist to get into the Marines' compound.
The bombing was blamed on the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. It was the deadliest terrorist attack on Americans prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
Wednesday's ceremony also honored fallen service members and survivors who served in Lebanon from 1958 to 1984 and in Grenada.
The fallen service members' names are etched onto the Beirut Memorial wall. Janet Williams attended the event and found her husband's name.
"It's a way of connecting going to the wall," Williams said. "It's just like a family get-together. Just like a big family reunion when we come to it."
It was Tony Mattacchione's first time going to the annual ceremony. He lost his brother in the attack.
"It's hard to believe 30 years have gone by, but I don't want to let another 30 years go by," he said. "This is a special event. I'm glad I came and learned a lot more about the community here, and I look to do more of this coming forward."
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