Remarks by Vice President Mike Pence Commemorating the 34th Anniversary of the 1983 Bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon
11:22 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Rabbi Resnicoff, Secretary Shulkin, Acting Secretary Duke, General McMaster, General Walters, Colonel Zagurski, Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach, Ambassador Araud, Chargé Jazzar, and to all the members of the United States Marine Corps, all of our armed forces, our honored veterans, and the family members of our beloved fallen: It is deeply humbling for me to join you today to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Beirut Marine barracks bombing.
is no more fitting place in our nation’s capital to mark this solemn day than here, at the oldest post of the United States Marine Corps, the Marine Barracks of Washington, D.C. And, Colonel, we are grateful for your leadership and for the hospitality of all these Marines.
This facility is an enduring testament to the fortitude and valor of America’s Marines. It has stood here for more than two centuries, and as tradition holds, in the War of 1812, the British refrained from burning it out of respect for the “leathernecks” they faced in battle.
For my part, it's deeply humbling for this father of a United States Marine to stand before so many of the few and the proud, and to thank you for your service to the United States of America and to freedom. (Applause.)
Today, it's my privilege to speak to you on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Trump, and I bring the President’s greetings. But more than that, I bring the President’s heartfelt condolences, and those of my little family, and all of the American people to all of you who are gathered here today who lost a family member or a friend on that day in October in 1983.
Thirty-four years ago today, America was thrust into war with an enemy unlike any we had ever faced. The sun rose early on that Sunday morning, climbing above the mountains of Lebanon, casting the day’s first beams of light across the city of Beirut.
The soft rays of sunshine soon reached the airport to the barracks where the members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and many others had already begun to stir.
These brave Americans were stationed in that ancient land to keep a fragile peace. As we just heard, they were there and they came in peace. They were shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers-in-arms from the United Kingdom, Italy, and France. For more than a year, this force of freedom stood together to protect the innocent and prevent a civil war from becoming an even greater tragedy.
But for that very reason, because of the principles for which they stood and the peace for which they strived, these heroes aroused the attention of great evil. And on that Sunday morning, that evil set them in its sights.
The men began their day like any other -- writing letters to their loved ones, eating in the mess, and rising from their racks. But beyond the barracks’ walls, unbeknownst to them, a lone truck began its approach.
It entered the airport, turned toward the building, circled in a parking lot just beyond the wire barrier. And then history records the truck rushed forward. It burst through the wires, sped between two guard posts, and through the open gate -- crashed into the lobby.
Within seconds -- within just moments the driver detonated his deadly cargo, the light of the dawning sun was virtually eclipsed by what was described as the largest non-nuclear explosion in the history of the world.
In that moment, 241 Americans lost their lives. They were soldiers, they were sailors, but the vast majority of them were United States Marines. It was the bloodiest day for the United States Marine Corps since the assault on Iwo Jima.
The men we lost were fathers, they were brothers, they were sons, and they died in defense of peace and freedom. And for that, we will forever remember their service and their sacrifice -- of that I can assure these precious families who are here today.
We also remember the 58 French paratroopers, who died only moments later when a second attacker struck their installation. Just moments after -- the Ambassadors just told me -- they had heard the explosion in the distance. And then terrorist violence would be visited upon them.
The Bible tells us that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” And to the families of the fallen -- even now, 34 years hence -- let me assure you that will be our prayer for you this day.
In fact, let me take this moment to recognize all the members of the Beirut families here today. You honor us with your presence. (Applause.)
Let me also acknowledge Rabbi Resnicoff, Colonel Gerlach, and all the members of the Beirut Veterans of America who were there, on that day, who lost so many friends and fellow Marines, and have never failed to honor the lost -- not just one day a year, but every day in your careers and in your lives. (Applause.)
Of your organization, your motto rings ever true, that our “First Duty is to Remember.” And so you have. And today, President Trump and the First Lady, and my family, and all of the American people do our duty as well. We remember our fallen heroes and those they left behind.
But we also have a duty to honor the memory of our fallen by continuing to stand strong to fight and defeat the enemy that so cruelly took them from us.
The Beirut barracks bombing was the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since -- the global war on terror. It's a conflict that has taken American troops across the wider world -- from Lebanon to Libya, from Nigeria to Afghanistan, from Somalia to Iraq, and many other battlefields in between.
At this very hour, around the globe, thousands of brave Americans are defending our freedom from the forces of terror. And to them, and to all of you, I say with confidence: Under this Commander-in-Chief, the Armed Forces of the United States will have the support they need to confront our enemy and win. (Applause.)
President Trump has already taken decisive action to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still. Our President has already signed the largest increase in defense spending in nearly 10 years. And as we speak, we are working with the Congress to pass the largest investment in national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.
And under President Donald Trump, I promise you, we will rebuild our military, we will restore the arsenal of democracy, and we will once again give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and training they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe. (Applause.)
And with renewed American strength, this President has made clear that America will stand with our allies and we will stand up to our enemies. And we are taking the fight to terrorists on our terms, on their soil.
Radical Islamic terrorism is a hydra with many heads, striking London, Paris, Barcelona. No matter what name they choose to go by or where they try to hide, this President and our armed forces are committed, as the President said in his own words, to “destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them” -- and so we will. (Applause.)
The brutal act that brings us here today was planned and perpetrated by the terrorists of Hezbollah. Under President Trump’s leadership, we've redoubled our commitment to cripple Hezbollah’s terrorist network and bring its leaders to justice.
Earlier this year, under President Trump’s leadership, our law enforcement arrested two Hezbollah operatives in New York and Michigan. And earlier this month, our administration announced rewards for information leading to the location, arrest, and conviction of two of Hezbollah’s senior-most leaders, including Fuad Shukr, one of the masterminds behind the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks.
But as we all know, that terrorist group is merely a proxy for the leading state sponsor of terrorism. And President Donald Trump has put Iran on notice that we will no longer tolerate their destabilizing activities or their support of terrorism across the region and across the world. (Applause.)
Iran’s theocratic rulers aided and abetted the Beirut bombers 34 years ago. And even now, Iran praises the attackers and remembers them as martyrs. Worse yet, the Iranian regime continues to funnel funds and weapons to its terrorist minions, with the goal of shedding blood and sowing chaos throughout the wider world.
Just over a week ago, our President took decisive action to confront Iran’s aggression when he announced that the United States of America will no longer certify the Iran nuclear deal or tolerate Iran’s support of global terrorism. (Applause.)
This President will not sit idly by while the ayatollahs in Tehran plot more attacks like the horrific attack that we remember today.
As the President often says, he has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people, and we will fight tirelessly to defeat the specter of radical Islamic terror no matter where it rears its ugly head.
In Afghanistan, our President has made it clear that our armed forces will remain engaged in the fight against the Taliban and all the terrorist groups in the region until we eliminate that threat to our homeland, and our people, once and for all, will be safe and free.
And so, too, we will continue the fight against the terrorists of ISIS. Three years ago, those barbarians celebrated in the streets of their self-declared capital in Raqqa. They perpetrated unspeakable acts of violence and drove countless people from their homes in Iraq and Syria, and they proclaimed the start of a thousand-year caliphate as they raised their black flags across the region. But today those flags no longer fly in their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. (Applause.)
As a candidate, our President pledged, in his words, to “crush and destroy ISIS.” And today, thanks to the courage of our armed forces, and the resolve of our Commander-in-Chief, ISIS is on the run.
Just last week, American and allied forces liberated Raqqa, and across Syria and Iraq, the caliphate is crumbling. And you can be assured, we will not rest, we will not relent until we hunt down and destroy ISIS at its source so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our way of life. (Applause.)
The war on terror began 34 years ago today. At this very hour, on frontiers of freedom, brave Americans continue the fight, continue to sacrifice as, even today, we grieve the loss of four American heroes who fell in Niger earlier this month. As we do today, we honor their service and sacrifice, and we grieve with their families and friends.
Even more so, we renew our pledge that their and the sacrifice we remember today will not have been in vain. And as a nation, we resolve that under the leadership of President Donald Trump, we will drive the cancer of terrorism from the face of the Earth. (Applause.)
As I close, let me say again how deeply humbling it is for me to be with all of these families and these courageous Marines today.
It is an honor as your Vice President, but it is also my honor because, as our family knows, I could well be sitting in a different seat today, with the Beirut families, remembering a loved one and a hero lost 34 years ago.
The General was kind to note that I'm the proud father of a United States Marine. But I'm also the proud brother of a United States Marine. My older brother enlisted in the Marines back when I was in college. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. And in 1983, that battalion was ordered to Beirut, including First Lieutenant Greg Pence.
Like a lot of Marines, my brother liked to send a lot of letters home, and we waited anxiously for them. Turned out he lived in the very barracks where the attack occurred with all his fellow Marines.
I remember one letter; he told us that early in the morning, sometimes late at night, he liked to go up on the roof to watch the sunrise or watch the sunset. He'd sit next to an American flag that fluttered in that autumn breeze. He sent me a picture of it that he saved just the other day.
When we first heard about the Beirut bombing, all we could think about, as a family, was that our brother was there. I called my parents immediately to ask if Gregory was okay. They didn’t know. I called his new bride, Denise -- asked her if she had heard anything. She hadn't.
As families gathered here remember, in those times, we waited. It was a different time; we didn't have emails and text messages and 24-hour news. All our family could do was what your families did -- wait, hope, and pray. And we did.
A couple days passed before he called. It turned out he had shipped out with his battalion only days before the bombing. Gregory was able to come home to that new wife, put his arms around our folks, start his own family.
But I promise all of you, just like my brother, we'll never forget. We'll never forget the 241 who never had that chance.
When heroes fall, America mourns. And today, 34 years on, we still mourn with those who mourn and grieve -- with those who grieve. But we do not grieve like the rest who have no hope, because our faith gives us hope and heroes give us hope.
To the families of our fallen, I say with conviction, the memory of your loved ones will live on forever, enshrined in the hearts and memory of a grateful nation. And as long as America endures, we will honor their service and sacrifice, and we will strive every day to be worthy of it.
We will do our part in our time to keep lit the flame of freedom for which they gave that "last full measure,” and we will ever kindle the flame of faith.
For as Rabbi Resnicoff wrote so many years ago, it is through faith that we find strength. And today and every day, we can take comfort in the knowledge that they were, as God above is and ever will be, Semper Fidelis.
May God bless our beloved fallen. May God bless and comfort their families gathered here and across this nation. May God bless our veterans. May God bless all you who serve. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:46 A.M. EDT