OFF THE COAST OF BEIRUT — Twenty-six nautical miles off the coast of Beirut crew members aboard USS Higgins (DDG 76) paused to remember the lives lost 26 years ago during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing.
Killed in the attack were 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers when a truck bomb exploded in the American barracks located on the Beirut International Airport. During the ceremony aboard Higgins, sailors rendered honors and Higgins' Commanding Officer Cmdr. Carl Meuser offered words of reflection.
"Today we pause to proudly salute 241 brave men who went to the shores of Lebanon and absorbed the blow for the cause of a just peace," he said. "It is a cause that is worthy of our best service, and it is worth the sacrifices that we have and ultimately may be asked to make."
The honors rendered to the bombing victims were then followed by a wreath-laying to commemorate Marine Col. William R. "Rich" Higgins, the ship's namesake. Col. Higgins was captured in 1988 while serving on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. He was held hostage, tortured and eventually murdered by his captors. "We serve upon a ship named for a brave man, murdered upon the not-distant shores off which we sail," said Meuser, during the wreath-laying. "We serve, as he did, the cause of a more just and peaceful future around the globe, and our service to that cause in this corner of the world is coincidental. We take the opportunity afforded by that coincidence to honor the memory of Colonel Rich Higgins. We cannot change the events of the past, but we can draw from the past the most noble, courageous and selfless standards set by such men as Colonel Higgins."
The guided-missile destroyer is currently on a scheduled deployment in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility and is currently participating in the U.S.-Israeli bilateral exercise Juniper Cobra 10 (JC10). JC10, held every two years, is the fifth iteration of its kind and is designed to test the active missile-defense capabilities of both armed forces.