Thirty-three years ago yesterday, October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a van loaded with explosives into the barracks of the US Marines in Beirut, killing 241 of them and wounding many more. The marines were sent into Beirut over a year earlier to keep the peace between Israeli forces and Lebanese militias. Therefore, the bombing of the barracks had a great impact for many Americans. Flags were flown at half mast for a week and there was a genuine sense of mourning during that time. Then when America felt it had mourned enough for the fallen marines, it went back to its business and seemed to forget about it.
Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t forget it that quickly. Reason was that the unit that got hit over there was the one I had spent nearly three-quarters of my military life with, First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment. I served, lived and partied with many of those marines who were over there at the time. They’re loss weighed particularly heavy on me. My problem was that I felt I had no one really to talk about it with. I remember before the bombing that I mentioned to someone that my old unit was over there at the time but it appeared that person didn’t really believe me. That where certain anxieties started.
The worry of people not believing anything I said goes back to the time period which influenced me to write “He Was Weird.” Like Mark in the story, I was accused of telling loads of lies and fake stories. True, a good number of those things were gross exaggerations and fantasies which I converted into reality but I wasn’t the liar I was made out to be. I know now that in many cases, the people hearing those stories took what I was saying the wrong way and totally blew it further out of proportion. Often times, their version was completely different to what I had said originally. Still, it resulted in me being very guarded in the things I said and wouldn’t say anything unless I had concrete evidence to back it up. While I could back up the fact that it was indeed my old unit that was blown up in Beirut, my anxieties told me it was best not to make it common knowledge.
As a result, I swallowed how I was feeling about the loss of my friends in Beirut. However, I did mourn in the way I knew how. Many of my closest friends from my old unit were big Cheech and Chong fans, so one evening at work, I found myself doing a monologue from a scene in “Up in Smoke.” I got a lot of weird looks that time. A year later, when Ronald Reagan was running for re-election, I stated that I couldn’t vote for him because he ordered my friends to their death. In a separate scene, a friend, who was a devout Born Again Christian, said he was voting for Reagan because he wasn’t afraid to use the military. My response was that because of that, many of my friends are dead. He didn’t have an answer for that but not long after, he pontificated on how the evil heathens that made up America’s military back then had corrupted me. My guess, that was the reason why he wasn’t too bothered about Lebanon was because It was a bunch of heathens who got killed. Then again, that’s often how America’s peace time military is viewed.
The burden that this was placed upon me began to be lifted three years after the event when I came to the UK. There were people who were willing to listen to me without judgement. In fact, I married one of them. What I hoped the final nail in the coffin came when I saw a documentary on the 10th anniversary of the bombing. That did give me a lot of absolution, however, the anxieties still haven’t gone away and I still think that most of America chooses to keep it swept under the carpet. Three years ago, I posted a question about the 30th Anniversary of the bombing on an opinion site and only one person stated he remembered the event but confessed that he didn’t know it was the 30th anniversary. It is now the 33rd anniversary and I will stop and drink a toast remembering my friends who were killed on that day. I hope those who read this will join me. However, I still believe that the United States owes the Lebanon veterans an apology.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477338249&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird