Saturday, December 17, 2005

Beirut through My Eyes part 1

In October of 1983 I was 24 years old, naive but a Navy Veteran. I enlisted in April of 1977 and went to the west coast. After 3 Westpacs I thought I had seen it all, from rescuing Vietnamese refugees to sitting on Gonzo Station during most of the Hostage Crisis. So I didn't think what I was about to see would effect me in anyway. I was seasoned, hardened and cynical beyond most of my peers.

I was standing on the signal bridge of the USS Portland LSD-37 when the unthinkable happened. We were about 1 nautical mile from the beach a little south of the Beirut International Airport, I was standing facing the beach when I heard what I first thought was a direct hit on the ship. The explosion was loud at almost 2 miles away, I looked for the source of the blast and I saw a cloud rising from the area of the Marine encampment, my heart skipped a beat, then we started reacting. We called into our CIC (combat information center) and reported what we had seen. Within minutes the chatter on the radio started, we heard that the BLT was down, Marines yelling for medivacs and finally body containers. Volunteers were being recruited to help with the rescues, I volunteered but was told that I was needed onboard so I sat helpless, listening to the chatter while my Marine Brothers needed my help.
I finally told my department head that it was my duty to be there and later that night I was flown in to assist in the rescue and recovery.

I am not sure what day it was that I found a small yellow piece of paper that would change my life. But it was after I had seen the destruction dealt by enemies of peace and order. A truck filled with explosives estimated to be around 20 thousands pounds, ( reports list 12 thousand and up, explosives were amplified by gasses) had driven into the BLT HQ and detonated, the 4 story building had been brought down like a house of cards. Debris scattered everywhere, rubble contained remains of my Brothers and we dug until our fingers bled hoping to find someone still clinging to life.

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