Camp Fallujah, Iraq -- CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq—As if obeying a direct order, the wind blowing steadily paused so men could listen. Inside Camp Fallujah’s theater was a sergeant major leading a solemn event. The air was still but possessed a sharp chill in Iraq.
Today, LtCol. Derric M. Knight, Commanding Officer of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and his Marines, remembered and honored their brothers-in-arms killed 21 years ago in Beirut, Lebanon.
The remembrance ceremony, hosted annually by 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, home-based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. was attended by more than 400 I Marine Expeditionary Force service members. Also attending were LtGen. John F. Sattler, Commanding General, I MEF, BGen. Dennis J. Hejlik, Deputy Commanding General, I MEF and SgtMaj. Carlton W. Kent, Sergeant Major, I MEF.
Sergeant Major Robert R. Terry, 2nd Recon Bn.’s Sergeants Major and coordinator of the event, read the Department of the Defense report of the bombing.
Also participating were 2nd Recon Bn Marines who read the final roll call of the 16 fallen Marines and one Sailor killed that day in the catastrophic attack.
Master Sgt. Burnham K. Matthews, then LCpl. Matthews, was present during the bombing. Then a member Company C, 3rd Platoon, 2nd Recon Bn, he shared with the audience his experience:
“As the sun made it’s slow ascent giving rise to another slow Sunday morning in Beirut, Lebanon, a two-vehicle convoy returned from patrol. At 0608, the vehicles passed by posts, number 5 and 6 turned the corner, passed the Sergeant of the Guard shack and made their way to the rear of the Battalion Landing Team’s Headquarters. The eight weary Reconnaissance Marines made their way into the headquarters building and set about their daily tasks. The Team Leaders were set to debrief with the Platoon Sergeant, one Marine went to shave, another to clean his rifle, and the rest went about their individual tasks.
The day was October 23, 1983. I was a 20-year-old lance corporal riding in one of those vehicles with little more than two years in the Marine Corps. We were supposed to be peacekeepers in a land that seemed to enjoy being at war. We did not know exactly what a peacekeeper was or how to go about the task at hand.
At 0621, a 5-ton Mercedes truck breached the perimeter right between posts 5 and 6. Picking up speed across the parking lot, it crashed over the Sergeant of the Guard shack and drove straight into the building. At 0622, a religious fanatic completed his cowardly act, self-detonating 12,000 pounds of explosives and in an instant, 241 United States service men paid the ultimate price for freedom. Among them were 17 of our fellow Reconnaissance Marines of the 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion.
We are here today to remember and honor them for their sacrifice and for their dedication. We should remember them because their sacrifice should not be forgotten. We remember them to learn from the lessons they taught us. We remember the best of the World’s Finest.
Most people do not know that Marines of ‘Charlie Three’ were all hand picked volunteers. The Commanding Officer at the time said that the only Marines serving in Beruit would be on a voluntary basis and, of course, the list of volunteers was long.
Marines competed in special events to help the decision process on who would go. Charlie Three was truly some of the best Marines that 2nd Recon Battalion had to offer.
The Marines of Charlie Three were more than just my brothers-in-arms; they were my brothers in spirit.
The Marines of 2nd Recon Bn have gathered together every year since 1983 to remember the Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2 nd Reconnaissance Battalion. The Battalion has a memorial (at Camp Lejeune) dedicated to these Marines and we have placed paddles on the wall of the lounge to honor them. We gather here together today, in a distant land called Iraq, to honor them once more.”