They Came in Peace
October 23, 1983
It will be 37 years since the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and 3 Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines suffered the greatest single-day loss of life in our military since WW II. It has special meaning for me because as a young lieutenant, I was privileged to first lead Marines in “1/8” in the late 70s and early 80s. My 3-year tour of duty included deploying twice from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina aboard amphibious ships for extended deployments in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Arabian Sea. I had transferred from 1/8 in 1981, but by all appearances, the deployment in 1983 was no different than all the others – until the battalion was ordered ashore in Lebanon as a “peacekeeping” force.
When the suicide bomber drove into the barracks, one of those killed was Captain Mike Haskell. As irony would have it, I had met Mike in 1978 as I ran the 8-mile loop at The Basic School in Northern Virginia. As we ran, we talked about our young careers. I was still in training and he was a seasoned Marine. He had initially been in the enlisted ranks, had served with the prestigious “8th & I” Marine Corps Barracks and had already served in the Fleet Marine Force. We ended our run and bid farewell, but I knew that our run had been more than keeping physically fit. Mike was special and so were all who would eventually die with him.
When I first learned of the attack, I was back in Quantico attending Amphibious Warfare School. When I learned Mike’s funeral service would be in Quantico, I was able to participate in it. Later, each year while living again in Northern Virginia, I would ensure I visited his grave. It was and is a necessary reminder of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the Lebanese people. On this hallowed day, I ask everyone to take a moment from the many distracting news stories of the day to remember those who came in peace and pray for their families.
They Came in Peace