written by Haya Eason

20-year-old Haya Eason in military uniform at Marine Base Camp Geiger, North Carolina

October 23, 1983, began as just another quiet Sunday morning at Marine Base Camp Geiger, North Carolina. I was a 20-year-old 0100 (Military Administration) Discharge Clerk at the Infantry Training School (ITS) there. Sunday morning was when I ironed my uniforms for the week ahead.

As the iron heated up, I flipped on the television. A news report from Beirut, Lebanon, froze me in place. There’s been a bombing at the Marine HQ and barracks there. A truck loaded with 12,000 pounds of explosives had crashed through the gates and killed hundreds while the Marines slept.

Most of the victims were with the 8th Marine Regiment.

They had come through Camp Geiger. We hailed them in the chow hall, in sick bay, or walking the base. They were due to return through Geiger, as so many others did as they cycled through deployments and training. We saw them coming, and we saw them going. Now, I would never see those Marines again.

I remember hearing that base MPs had to venture in town to retrieve Marines trying to go home. Geiger was small and somewhat isolated, up the New River from what we called the “Main Side,” Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.

It was a lonely place, and the news from Beirut seemed to make it lonelier. The reality of death woke us all up. Marines looked at each other differently, as if through eerie lenses.

Once, I asked why the Headquarters Companies of all the other regiments—the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 10th, and 12th Marines– were on Main Side, but the 8th Marines were stuck at Geiger.

The 8th Marines were too rowdy, I was told, and got kicked over here.

I don’t know if that’s true. But today, not far from Geiger, stands the Beirut Memorial and Grove which lists the names of the service members killed on October 23, 1983. Inscribed on the wall: “They Came in Peace.”

Beirut Memorial and Grove for Marines killed in 1983 bombing