WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Monday honored the memory of 241 U.S. service members killed in the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, calling the three-decade-old attack the "opening salvo" in the war against terrorism.
Pence and White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster paid tribute to the service members, including 220 Marines, on the anniversary of the deadly truck bombing during President Ronald Reagan's first term.
The vice president pointed to President Donald Trump's recent decision to decertify the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, which was tied to the bombing, and placed the 1983 attack as the first battle in the nation's ongoing war against terrorism. He also recalled the 58 French paratroopers who died when a second attacker struck their installation in Beirut.
"The Beirut barracks bombing was the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since — the global war on terror. It's a conflict that has taken American troops across the wider world — from Lebanon to Libya, from Nigeria to Afghanistan, from Somalia to Iraq, and many other battlefields in between," he said.
Pence said under Trump's leadership, "we will drive the cancer of terrorism from the face of the earth."
The Beirut bombing was the deadliest attack against U.S. Marines since the battle over Iwo Jima in February 1945. The ceremony and parade at the Marine Barracks in Washington was attended by retired Lt. Col. Larry Gerlach, the commander of the battalion landing team who survived the bombing, and families of service members who were killed.
Pence told the audience of his personal connection to the incident: His brother, Greg Pence, served in the Marines and was stationed at the Beirut barracks around the time of the attack.
The vice president said he and his parents and other family members worried about his brother's safety when they heard about the bombing. Days later, Greg Pence, who is now running for Congress in Indiana, called home to tell his family that his battalion had shipped out shortly before the bombing.
"I promise all of you, just like my brother, we'll never forget. We'll never forget the 241 who never had that chance," Pence said.