Brother recalls Marine who died in '83 Beirut bombing


October 23, 2008

For Raymond Boccia, the death of his brother exactly 25 years ago heralded an era that other Americans would only become familiar with much later.

"When 9/11 happened, it was like 'Welcome to our world,'" said Boccia, of Northport. "The rest of the world got pulled into what we experienced."

Boccia's brother, Capt. Joseph Boccia Jr., 28, was one of 241 Marines killed in a truck bomb attack on a barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983. He is buried at Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.

Two other Long Islanders also perished in the attack: Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Boulos, 19, of Islip, and Navy Corpsman 2/C Joseph Milano, 22, of Farmingville.

Boccia plans to attend a memorial service for the slain Marines today at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina.

"It was a lifetime ago, but it seems like only yesterday," said Boccia, 48, recalling the moment when three Marines approached his home to inform him that his brother was among the lost.

"I opened the door and they were standing there saluting with tears in their eyes," Boccia said. "I was hoping they would say he had been hurt, or had just lost a leg."

Even now, the Boccia family finds ways of commemorating Joseph Boccia Jr.'s death. His brother, James, runs in the annual Marine Corps Marathon this month. Raymond Boccia collects toys in his brother's name for needy children each Christmas.

"My brother had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and the Marines was a good place for him to funnel it," Raymond Boccia said. "We wonder, 25 years later, where he might have been today. Probably in the CIA or the FBI, because he needed to be in a structured environment with a lot of discipline."

He said his brother, in a last letter home, had suggested a tragedy might befall him during his deployment to Lebanon.

"He said something international is going to happen, but this is the way I want to go," Raymond Boccia recalled. "Not behind the wheel of a car or of old age, but doing something for my country."