ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - South St. Louis County resident Johnny Harper says October 23rd, 1983 is a day he will never forget. The retired U.S. Marine was about a mile away from a suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon that took the lives of 241 U.S. military personnel. The attack targeted a Marine compound that was 4 stories with three of those stories built into the ground.
“You had a crater so all these men were covered in concrete,” he said. “Many died from inhaling the dust in the smoke.”
Harper now operates a Creve Coeur business, but says he still lives with survivor's guilt.
“I see my son every morning and these guys don’t have that opportunity,” said Harper. “Nor do their families.”
Monday marks the 34th anniversary of the attack. Harper calls it his duty to make sure no one forgets the lives lost and the family members left behind.
“We need to honor them and their families because their families still live with that pain today and that loss,” he said.
There were questions raised about why the compound was vulnerable that day. Harper has questions as well but doesn’t want that to distract from remembering the cost of freedom.
“Remember them," said Harper. “Teach your kids this really did happen and these men need to be honored.”