KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Wednesday marks 30 years since what some consider to be one of the first terrorist attacks on America.
241 United States servicemen lost their lives when a suicide bomber drove a hijacked water delivery truck into a marine headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.
Bloody Sunday is how October 23, 1983 is remembered by many veterans. Three decades after the terrorist attack on a marine headquarters building in Beirut, those who were there won't call it an anniversary.
"It's not an anniversary, it's nothing to celebrate. It's a time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice," says retired Marine Colonel Miles Burdine, who was serving in Beirut on that day.
At North Carolina's Camp Lejeune Wednesday they laid a wreath at the memorial for those killed.
But in Kingsport, this day is far more personal for retired Marine Colonel Miles Burdine. He was guarding the U.S. and British embassy in Beirut when the suicide bomber struck.
He would have been in the building if the original embassy had not been hit by an attack a few months earlier. Many of his friends were inside; many did not survive. "Every year at this time I take time to reflect," Burdine said while fighting back emotion. "I don't like to talk about it, but we should not forget those 241."
Burdine has several pictures from his time in Beirut all tucked away in an album he doesn't open often except on October 23. The pictures bring back memories of those killed and the families they left behind. "To think I lived, but their son, brother, husband did not is difficult to think about," said Burdine
He believes now is especially the time to talk about the attack and remind our nation what happened 30 years ago and how our enemies launched a new way to attack the United States. "Another reason that America needs to remember is that on that bloody day terrorists performed an attack using a suicide bombing that is now their method," explained Burdine.
American intelligence traced responsibility to Iran and a leader who later shared strategies with Osama Bin Laden.
Burdine is still angry with how America responded. "Our politicians at the time pulled the Marine Corps out of Beirut. I think that was a mistake, they should have stayed there and finished the fight. We should have found those responsible and killed them," says Burdine.
But it's the 241 America lives lost that day that this day is about. "These were good men. They were good men, and we lost 241 of them," says Burdine
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