JACKSONVILLE - More than 240 Marines and Sailors were killed on October 23, 1983, when the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, was struck by terrorists.
The 29th Beirut Observance Ceremony to remember the lost will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The ceremony, which is open to the public, takes place at the Beirut Memorial site in the Camp Lejeune Memorial Garden.
"These men died for a reason," said retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Randy Gaddo. "They didn't die in vain, they were making a difference."
Gaddo, a photojournalist and public affairs officer stationed in Beirut, said he woke up early on that Sunday morning. At approximately 6:20 a.m., Gaddo said he felt the ground shutter. "I felt this warm rush of air and about two seconds after that, I was just picked up and thrown back."
After seeing that the First Battalion, 8th Marines Headquarters building had exploded, Gaddo said he went into shock. "I was supposed to see this four story building, but all that I saw was about a story of smoldering rubble."
Similarly, Onslow County residents were in shock.
"It was something that affected almost every person in this county," said Abe Rosen, Chairman of the Beirut Memorial Advisory Committee.
Rosen's friend, Mike Ellzey, agreed as he recalled that horribly day. "As we went to church, we noticed that a lot of our Marine neighbors, members of our church weren't there," said Ellzey. "We had heard they had gotten called back into the base, nobody really knew why."
Camp Lejeune officials say many of the victims of the attack were residents of Jacksonville. The bombing helped to create a strong bond between the civilian and military community in Onslow County.
"It had an unbelievable impact on the community and on the Battalion," said Major Kemper Jones, Executive Officer for the First Battalion, 8th Marines. Jones said many of his Marines today, who just returned from Afghanistan, feel a strong connection to the Beirut Marines.
"We were carrying out some of the same missions that they were carrying out in Beirut," said Jones.
Camp Lejeune officials say a private candlelight service for only Beirut Veterans and their family members will be held at 6 a.m., also at the Beirut Memorial.