6:26 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) That’s fantastic. Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you very much. A lot of spirit in this room. (Laughter.) A lot of spirit. For good reason.
We’re gathered together on this solemn occasion to fulfill our most reverent and sacred duty. Thirty-five years ago, 241 American service members were murdered in the terrorist attack on our Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. It was a very sad period of time. These are great, great people.
Today, we honor our fallen heroes and pledge that their blessed memory will never die, but live instead in the hearts of our grateful nation forever.
We are joined by, and for, today’s observers. And I’d like to introduce some of the outstanding people in our government, and some that are outside of our government, starting off with Secretary of State Pompeo. (Applause.) Mike? Where is Mike? Stand up, Mike. (Applause.) Thank you. Great job. And he’s been doing a lot of traveling. A very well-traveled man, aren’t you, Mike? Huh?
Secretary of Defense Mattis. (Applause.) Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer. (Applause.) Thank you. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford. (Applause.) Hi, Joseph.
Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. (Applause.) Mark, thank you. Thank you, Mark. Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller. (Applause.) Robert.
Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz. (Applause.) And Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green. Ronald. (Applause.) As well as my Chief of Staff, and a beloved Marine — he loves the Marines — John Kelly. John. (Applause.)
And much more important, a great wife and a great mother: Karen. Please stand up. Karen Pence. (Applause.) Great woman. Great man. Great woman. Thank you very much. Thank you everybody.
And thanks to the French Ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, for being here. Gérard. Where are you, Gérard? Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much. I just spoke to your President. I just spoke to President Macron, and he’s doing well. He sends his regards. (Laughter.)
I also want to recognize two very special retired Marines who led with extraordinary valor in the wake of the Beirut terrorist attack: Colonel Tim Garrity and General Al Gray. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, General Gray!
THE PRESIDENT: See that? They all love you.
We are also truly thankful to have with us the veterans of Beirut, who really — I mean, this is an incredible group. I’m going to ask you to stand. You courageously survived that terrible October day, and you have made your “First Duty to Remember.” Please stand. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: Such incredible spirit. I see hugging and kissing. I think it’s fantastic. That’s — that’s what love is, right? That’s real love. That’s the kind of love we like. That’s beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. Great, great people.
Most importantly, we’re joined by the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Please stand. Please. (Applause.) Wow. Wow. That’s great. That’s really great. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you very much. That’s great. Incredible.
To every Gold Star Family: Today, we pay tribute to the heroes you knew and loved. We grieve and mourn by your side. And we honor the immortal sacrifice of 241 heroes who gave their lives for our freedom. Thank you for being here very much.
In 1983, roughly 1,800 Marines were in Beirut to keep the peace in a nation torn apart by civil war. Terrorists had bombed the U.S. Embassy earlier that year, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans.
For the 300 Marines stationed at the Beirut Airport, the morning of October 23rd arrived like any other. The Marines on guard stood there and at their post; others slept peacefully in their bunks — until suddenly, and without warning, a truck driven by a terrorist crashed through the fences and barricades, and into the lobby of the Marine Barracks.
At 6:22 a.m., the terrorist detonated the equivalent of 1,200 pounds, commonly known as 12,000 pounds — that’s a lot, and it’s terrible — of explosives, killing 3 American soldiers, 18 American sailors, and 220 United States Marines. That was a horrible moment.
Minutes later, another truck bomb took the lives of 58 French paratroopers. It was the single deadliest day for the Marines since Iwo Jima.
The attack was carried out by Hezbollah, which Iran was instrumental in founding a year earlier to advance its radical agenda, and remain its main patron today. And we are doing a big number on Iran today, in case you haven’t noticed. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: God bless you, Mr. Trump!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I’ll tell you what — they’re not the same country they were when I took office, I will tell you that. (Applause.) They’re rioting in their streets. Their money has collapsed. Their lives are a lot different. And they’re not looking so much for the Mediterranean. When I took office, they were looking for the Mediterranean. They were going to take over everything. Now they want to survive. Whole different deal, folks. It’s a whole different deal.
No terrorist group other than al Qaeda has more American blood on its hands.
The service members who died that day include brave young Marines just out of high school, accomplished officers in the middle of their military careers, and enlisted men who had served in theaters all over the world. But they formed one united military family, defending their nation, serving their fellow Americans, and wearing their uniform with dignity and pride. Such incredible pride.
Each of these heroes died as they lived: as noble warriors — they were warriors — whose hearts were filled with courage and whose souls were rich with love.
The United States Marines are often the first to deploy, the first into danger, and the “first to fight.” And on that morning 35 years ago, they were among the very first to give their lives in the battle against radical Islamic terrorism — the battle that we are winning and we will win. (Applause.)
And I have to point out — and I can do this for General Kelly, General Mattis, and everybody here — that we are doing very well in our fight against ISIS. They are virtually knocked out entirely in Syria. In another short period of time, they’ll be gone, and also in Iraq and in lots of other places. We have stepped up the fight to a level that even General Mattis was very happy to get that order. Is that right, General? We’ve done a very strong number. (Applause.) Radical Islamic terror.
As Commander-in-Chief, I will always ensure that our service members have the tools, resources, equipment, support, and trust they need to protect this nation and to defeat America’s enemies with overwhelming force. No enemy on Earth can match the strength of our military or the might of our Marines. We will use every instrument of our national power to confront the sinister forces of terrorism.
That is one reason why last year I withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear disaster. (Applause.) On November 5th, all U.S. sanctions against Iran lifted by the nuclear deal will be back in full force — every sanction that we had on there originally, which would have — if they would have just left it a little bit longer, it would have been so much easier than what we’ve been through over the last number of years. All they had to do was leave it the way it was. It was eating them away. But we’ve started it all over again, and it will be just as good. Wasted time — and lives, unfortunately.
And they will be followed up with even more sanctions to address the full range of Iran’s malign conduct. We will not allow the world’s leading sponsor of terror to develop the world’s deadliest weapons. Will not happen.
Over the past year, we have levied the highest number of sanctions ever imposed on Hezbollah in a single year, by far. Just a few moments ago, I signed legislation imposing even more hard-hitting sanctions on Hezbollah to further starve them of their funds. And they are starving their funds. (Applause.)
We will target, disrupt, and dismantle their operational and financing networks — of which they had plenty; they don’t have plenty now — and we will never forget what they did to our great Marines in Beirut. We will never forget. (Applause.)
In the days after the attack, very brave General Al Gray traveled to more than 150 funerals of his beloved Marines who perished in the Beirut bombing.
On one of those trips, he arrived at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. There, he joined the hour-long funeral procession to transport a fallen Marine to his final resting place in a small town near Auburn, Alabama.
On that long drive, General Gray witnessed a sight that would stay with him forever. Throughout the entire journey — along both sides of the highway, for miles and miles of country road, as far as the eye could see –- everyday citizens, who came by the thousands, were lined up to pay their highest respects. They were waving flags, holding hands, holding their hands also over their hearts, and standing in silent salute to our great fallen Marine heroes.
This outpouring of love and devotion was but a small measure of the eternal gratitude of our nation. In all of our history, no figure has ever lived with more grace and courage than the men and women who serve our country in uniform. They are God’s blessing to us all. They are God’s blessing. (Applause.) They are incredible, incredible people.
Each of the Gold Star families here today carries on the remarkable legacy of their loved ones. You care for your families, you serve your communities, you support one another, you persevere, and you overcome. And I know you very well: You win. You just know nothing but winning. I know the people — some of the people in this room, they just know how to win. And you keep the memory of our heroes alive.
So this evening, we pay tribute to your service. We honor your sacrifice. And we say, on behalf of all Americans, thank you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your devotion. Thank you for your love that is greater than life itself. And thank you for remembering us all what it means to live like our heroes: forever brave, forever strong, and always, always, always faithful.
Thank you once again. And God bless you. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you, folks. Thank you very much. Thank you.
6:41 P.M. EDT