Today is the 25th anniversary of what has become known as the ‘Beirut bombing’; an event I think of as part of the infancy stage of the ‘war on terror’ whatever that might be. My daughter reminded me of it and there were some articles in the New York Times but I generally agree with an author who says ‘the Marines in Beirut seem to have gotten lost in the history books’. I know that when my school has its annual Veteran’s Day Celebration I feel a little lost because we mention the ‘big ones’ of World War II, Korea (sometimes), Vietnam, and the latest wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan the historians haven’t really named yet; my generation is left out and yet we served, and in some cases we died, and in many cases we’ve carried scars inside we still do not mention.
I was not in Beirut that day. I was thousands of miles away preparing to invade the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada. On October 25th we invaded, and my squadron lost 3 pilots with a 4th seriously wounded. In just a few days fighting we lost 3 aircraft, 4 pilots and a great deal of innocence. From there we went on to Beirut, our original destination. My squadron mates are gathering in Grenada for our 25th anniversary. At our 20th reunion I noticed everyone talked about Grenada. Not many talked about Beirut but it is Lebanon that still haunts me for reasons I don’t talk about or even think about much.
By sheer coincidence I found remarks written by a journalist who was in Beirut with me for Christmas of 1983 and he wrote about our lives, he wrote about my comrades. Those long ago events led me to a life of teaching, lay ministry, and an upcoming profession as a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. Good can come out of evil. I don’t know that I am good, but my intentions have mostly been good in the 25 years that have passed. Our mission there was futile, and yet we were right to try, and that is one of the things that haunts me.