Veterans from across country attend 29th Beirut Observance Ceremony
The Daily News
Army Sgt. Maj. Jody Spivey had avoided the day for 29 years.
Twenty-nine years ago, Spivey was a Marine serving with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He is one of the survivors of the Oct. 23, 1983, Beirut bombing that killed a total of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers.
Although the Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony has been held every year for the past 26 years, Spivey has avoided each ceremony — until now. He said although the ceremony was difficult for him to sit through, he finally felt ready to make it to the service after nearly 30 years since the attack.
Spivey, like hundreds of other Beirut veterans, dressed in his service alphas and made his way to the Beirut Memorial Tuesday morning to pay his respects to the 273 names inscribed on the wall of the Beirut Memorial. The names represent not only the service members who died on Oct. 23, 1983, when a terrorist-driven truck laden with bombs drove into and blew up the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment headquarters building in Beirut, Lebanon, but also those that have since died because of injuries from the attacks plus three local Marine pilots killed in Grenada.
“It was something I knew I needed to do,” said Spivey as he held back tears. “It was a great ceremony.”
The ceremony featured solemn music from the 2nd Marine Division band, colors and a rifle salute from the current 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, a laying of the wreaths by military dignitaries and a speech from guest speaker Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry, Marine Corps Installations East and Camp Lejeune commanding general, who called the Beirut bombing the deadliest single day death toll to hit the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Sgt. Maj. Ernest Hoopii, sergeant major of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, said the Beirut bombing was the reason he joined the Marine Corps 28 years ago.
“I was 22 when (Beirut) happened and it was my calling,” Hoopii said. “(On Oct. 23, 1983) I came home and I turned on the news and I saw what happened, and it touched me so much that I got a hold of the Marine Corps recruiter and asked to join the service... It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Hoopii took time before the ceremony to speak to the young Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment about the role of their unit in Beirut. He said he felt it was important the young Marines knew the history of the men that came before them.
“They went to Beirut, Lebanon as peacekeepers, and they were attacked,” Hoopii said. “It’s important that we never forget.
“Just like Pearl Harbor — just like 9/11 — we should never forget.”