William Laise, 83, of Lima, and his wife, Betty, lost a son 30 years ago when suicide bombers drove a truck filled with explosives into a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut.
The events of that day changed not only their world, but America's world.
It marked the beginning of modern-day terrorism aimed at the United States; a day when a bounty was put on all of our heads by groups called the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad.
Up to that point, terrorism happened to other countries, not ours. Yet, the 30-year anniversary of the Beirut bombing passed Wednesday as if it were any other day.
Television. Newspapers. Magazines.
You and me.
Most of us forgot it.
Forgot about 241 American servicemen — 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers who died the morning of Oct. 23, 1983. People like Keith J. Laise. He was all of 20 years old. A proud Marine, if not just for a matter of months.
“To think such an anniversary didn't warrant a sentence in most newspapers or 15 seconds on television, or a simple conversation, that's just not right,” William Laise said, himself a Korean War veteran.
The Laise family lived in Pennsylvania at the time. Like so many young adults who were just a few years out of high school in the early 1980s, Keith Laise struggled with finding a job in a tough economy. His answer came when he heard a U.S. Marine recruiting slogan, “We're looking for a few good men.” He wanted to be one of them.
“When Keith came home one night and said he joined the Marines, you could have knocked my wife and me over with a pin,” William Laise said.
Yet they were proud the day he graduated from Camp LeJeune and saw the man that Keith had become. Pride turned into pain that Sunday morning in October when they were awakened by their son, Kris, telling them to turn on their television.
“We found out later the bomb went off right by his barracks,” William Laise said. “We had a terrible time getting verification that Keith died, but deep down, we knew. They didn't find his body for 10 days. In the end, all we could hope for is that it happened quickly.”
The bombing was the deadliest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. On that same day in Beirut, a near simultaneous attack by another suicide bomber killed 58 French soldiers in an international peacekeeping building.
Osama bin Laden would later speak about the importance of the attack and the importance of the American reaction to it. He saw suicide bombers as a way to cripple Western powers.
During a memorial Wednesday at Camp LeJeune, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said the attack “defined the beginning of what become known today as the war on terror.”
Also speaking that day was retired Col. Tim Geraghty, the commander of the international peacekeeping mission in October 1983. He took Amos' statement further, noting, “The past three Iranian ministers of defense, including the current one selected a few months ago, all have peacekeepers' blood on their hands and are leading the Iranian march for the acquisition of nuclear weapons.”
An 83-year-old father asks only one thing on behalf of a son and those other 200-plus who died that day. It comes with a heavy heart, and memories of a loved one taken from his family too soon.
“We as a country cannot allow ourselves to forget such a time in history,” William Laise said. “We owe it to all those who died that day.”
PARTING SHOT: A priest, a tasty steak and a bunch of Delphos council members are found hanging out in the rose garden.
Rose: To the Rev. Barry Stechschulte, of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in St. Marys. When told during a trip to Italy that one person in his group of 22 would have a meeting with Pope Francis, he chose Kent Miller, a Lutheran.
Rose: City Council members voted themselves and other elected officials a 25 percent pay cut to help with the tough economic times Delphos faces in 2014.
Rose: To John Heaphy, whose new steakhouse – Old City Prime – opened in downtown Lima.
Rose: To Roger and Mamie Hughes, the adopted siblings of Barb and Pastor Robert King, of Spencerville. They accepted the Rising up and Moving On Award from the Public Childrens Service Association of Ohio for overcoming obstacles in their lives.
Rose: To Ronda Lehman and Jim Lewis, who are co-chairing a project by the Allen Lima Leadership Class of 2013 that will see the group raise funds to repair the roof of the Habitat for Humanity Restore business, which accepts donated goods that in turn are sold to the general public at a fraction of the retail price.
Thorn: Less than 10 years after the closing of the Lima Correctional Institution, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections is talking about building a new prison because of the increasing number of prisoners.
Thorn: To Benjamin R. Woodman, 19, of Wapakoneta, who was jailed for making threats to a church.
PARTING SHOT: “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” – Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf