PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (NNS) — The nine Marines from Rhode Island who died on Oct. 23, 1983 in the terrorist truck bombing attack at the Marine barracks, Beirut, Lebanon, were memorialized, Oct. 23, at the 31st anniversary Beirut Memorial Service conducted in the Portsmouth Historical Society chapel.
The ‘Rhode Island Nine’ were honored as heroes during the memorial service that was attended by their surviving Gold Star family members, friends; and members of veterans organizations amongst the 100 attendees.
During the roll call of honor, family members were called forward to place a carnation in a wreath donated by the VFW Post 5390, Portsmouth.
Honored were: Sgt. Timothy Giblin, North Providence; Cpl. Rick R. Crudale, Warwick; Cpl. Edward S. Iacovino Jr., Warwick; Cpl. David C. Massa, Warwick; Cpl. Thomas A. Ship, Woonsocket; Cpl. Edward Soares Jr., Tiverton; brother’s in law Cpl. James F. Silvia, Middletown, and Cpl. Stephen E. Spencer, Portsmouth, and Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Julian, Middletown.
Attending were a contingent of Marines from Marine Corps Detachment (MARDET) Newport.
Also, attending the ceremony were: Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D); U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.; and Brig. Gen. Charles Petrarca, Rhode Island National Guard.
«It’s right and very appropriate that we do this to honor the Rhode Island Nine and those others who died in Beirut,» Chafee said in his remarks.
«They made the ultimate sacrifice these great American heroes,» Cicilline said.
Supporting the ceremony were a Navy Band Northeast brass ensemble, and vocalist, Musician 1st Class Dan Smith, who sang a cappella the National Anthem; and a color guard from Marine Corps Detachment Newport, Naval Station Newport.
«Your Marines, the Rhode Island Nine, were cut from the same cloth that reflects honor, courage, commitment, selflessness, and bravery,» said guest speaker Lt. Col. Matt Palma, USMC, professor, Maritime Advanced Warfighting Program, Naval War College.
«This was the largest group of casualties since the Battle of Iwo Jima,» he said.
Of the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and three soldiers who died in the Beirut Marine complex, Rhode Island suffered the most losses with nine.
«I consider these casualties as some of the first casualties of the global war on terror,» Palma, a native of Bristol, R.I., said.
«The global war on terror started way before 911,» he said.
Palma recalled the events of that tragic day when the driver of a yellow Mercedes stake bed truck drove by the barracks complex but soon returned, crashing through a barbed wire barrier and a sandbagged booth and crashed into the barracks compound, lodging itself in the lobby where its drive detonated a gas-enhanced suicide bomb.
«An FBI forensic expert determined the bomb was equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT, and reportedly the largest non-nuclear blast to date,» Palma said.
Palma said the bombing at the Marine complex has served as a case study in force protection, operations intelligence, and rules of engagement.
Palma recalled an incident in 2008 in which two Marines were called upon to guard the front gate of a combined Marine and Iraqi police patrol base. Their orders were to stop unauthorized vehicles from passing their security checkpoint.
A dump truck, loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives, raced towards their position.
Palma said video footage recovered later showed the Marines stood their ground together and defended the checkpoint before the truck exploded.
In six seconds the truck exploded killing the Marines.
«These two Marines didn’t hesitate and their actions saved the lives of more than 150 Marines and Iraqi policemen,» Palma said.
Speaking to the family members seated, Palma said, «I hope you can face this day knowing that these two Marines faced danger every day and did not run away from it.»
«We accept completely the hazards associated with our unique mission because it is our duty,» Palma said.
Amongst those attending was Jeff Moy of Middletown, who graduated Rogers High School, Newport. He attended basic training in 1981 with Spencer, Soares, Silvia, and Julian.
«The last time I saw them they were 17 years old. I miss them,» Moy said.
Other wreaths displayed during a wreath-laying following the memorial service were provided by the Marine Corps League and the Portsmouth Garden Club.