Toughest 106 days of his life: Public affairs officer tells story of Beirut
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    Exclamation Toughest 106 days of his life: Public affairs officer tells story of Beirut

    Toughest 106 days of his life: Public affairs officer tells story of Beirut

    By Sgt. Joshua S. Higgins, Combat Correspondent

    Maj. Bob Jordan was a public affairs officer attached to the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit. The unit was stationed at the Beirut airport in 1982 after the United States agreed with Lebanese government officials to provide a peacekeeping force in the conflict between Moslem and Christian factions. The Moslems came to perceive the Marines and sailors of the MAU as a threat and began to lob mortar, artillery and small-arms fire.

    Jordan was awakened that morning by an explosion and falling debris.

    “I had been under fire in Vietnam, and was under fire the whole time I was in Beirut, but this was the loudest and flattest explosion I had ever heard,” said Jordan. “I was confused as to what it could have been.”

    After freeing himself from the rubble, Jordan rose to his feet only to see that the ceiling of the once airport fire station turned command and control center had partially collapsed and the doors and windows had been destroyed by the force from the explosion.

    Jordan made his way outside the building and discovered that the Marine barracks had been attacked by a suicide bomber and was completely destroyed.

    “I was shocked to see the airports’ control tower, because the Marine barracks usually blocked it from sight,” said Jordan.

    Jordan would soon find out that an explosive-laden truck driven by an unknown terrorist crashed through two security checkpoints and into the side of the barracks. The bomb exploded, demolishing the building and significantly damaging several others around it. The explosion and collapse of the building killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers and seriously injured many others.

    Jordan quickly but cautiously made his way to the barracks to assist in any way he could.

    “When I reached the site, most of the Marines were in shock,” said Jordan. “My first instinct was to dig through the rubble for survivors, load them in a nearby jeep and have one of the surviving Marines drive it to the battalion aid station.”

    After an hour or more of searching for the wounded and deceased, 24th MAU Commanding Officer Col. Timothy J. Geraghty approached Jordan and instructed him to handle media queries.

    “Colonel Geraghty told me he had enough Marines to help with rescue efforts, but he had only one public affairs officer,” said Jordan. “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was walk away from helping those Marines,” he added.

    “The colonel had a point though,” said Jordan. “My public affairs training took over, and all I could think about was to show people back home through the media this cowardly crime against humanity.”

    According to Jordan, the following days were very physically and mentally challenging for him. Every waking hour was spent escorting and monitoring media or helping with rescue efforts.

    “The media personnel were very understanding,” said Jordan. “I recall one reporter in particular. I had taken a moment to step behind one of the buildings for a cry, and he saw me. He came to where I was sitting and said to me, ‘We (media) have everything we need. Why don’t you just kick us out?’ So I looked at him and said, ‘You know what? You’re right. Get the hell out.’”

    “Those were the hardest 106 days I served throughout my military career,” said Jordan. “We were constantly under fire, and it’s amazing we took no more casualties than what we did. This was highly due to the discipline and professionalism of the Marines stationed there, and I commend them.”

    Ellie

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    IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
    ONE PROUD MARINE
    1961-1977
    Vietnam 1968/69
    Once a Marine...Always a Marine

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