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11-07-08, 08:50 AM
Beirut’s somber milestone

Rick Lemyre

Published 11/06/2008 - 1:42 p.m. PDT


Price Troche says it felt like an earthquake. Then a corporal with the 1/8 Marines, Troche was manning a mortar position at the Beirut, Lebanon airport on Oct. 23, 1983, when 6 tons of explosives packed into a truck were driven into the middle of the Marine barracks a half-mile away and set off.

“In a matter of 10 seconds, there were 241 dead,” the 46-year-old Brentwood resident said this week. “It was the biggest non-nuclear blast ever against U.S. troops.”

Troche was ordered to stay with his gun in a defensive posture, and it was three days before he got a chance to see firsthand the devastation wrought in one of the first attacks of its kind. He still sees a counselor about it from time to time, and still suffers from nightmares.

But one of the things that bothers him most is that today, 25 years later, few people remember the incident at all.

“It’s not even in the history books,” he said. “My son did an assignment on it while he was at Liberty (High School) and nobody in the class had even heard of it.”

The passing of the 25th anniversary last month got scant attention nationally, and virtually none locally, he said. “This is not about me,” he said. “I want recognition for those guys (who died). They gave up everything. It’s better for everybody if we remember them.”

One of the reasons it’s important to remember, Troche said, is to prevent the consequences from affecting the future. He cites the fact that Osama Bin Laden is said to have taken inspiration from the American withdrawal from Lebanon a few months later, claiming that “Americans can’t stand the sight of their own blood.” The ultimate result of that, some say, was the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

“A lot of families never got their sons, husbands or fathers back,” Troche said. “We should never forget them.”

To learn more about what many consider the opening salvo in the war on terror, log on to www.beirutveterans.org.