Upwards of 100 motorcyclists took to the highway Saturday afternoon to ride in remembrance of their fallen brothers Saturday afternoon in the inaugural Beirut Memorial Ride.
Among them were several survivors of the infamous 1983 bombing.
Dave Burnetsky was a 20-year-old lance corporal when a truckload full of explosives crashed into the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on Oct. 23, 1983.
He was asleep in his bunker about a mile from the explosion when his bed began shaking violently - leading him to believe it was just another earthquake.
“About 15 minutes after the building blew up we had a Marine come running into our bunker and told us what happened. My reaction was absolute shock, I couldn’t believe it,” Burnetsky said.
That day 241 American service members were killed in the terrorist attack, along with 88 French soldiers.
Burnetsky and other service members crossed that mile to help dig through rubble. The search effort was organized, with small teams searching various sections of the building.
Burnetsky continued to serve in the Marine Corps until 2004, retiring as a master sergeant.
“We just had the Beirut remembrance a couple days ago and starting to see the kids (of those killed in the Beirut bombing) in their 30s - it’s just sad when you look at them and see that they didn’t have their father,” Burnetsky said Saturday.
The motorcyclists departed from New River Harley-Davidson and traveled south on U.S. 17 through Sneads Ferry to Surf City before turning back and finishing at Lejeune Memorial Gardens.
The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office provided the escort for the Beirut Memorial Ride, helping to lead the motorcyclists safely through intersections and traffic.
“We need to continue to pay homage to these guys. That will be a catalyst for future generations to give, to sacrifice, to join the military and to be willing to go out and serve their country and die if necessary,” Tim Bailey, president of Strength & Honor Motorcycle Club N.C. chapter, said.
A short ceremony was observed at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens with the color guard provided by Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.
“It’s important that we have these events so that we don’t forget these folks. It’s events like this that help us keep that heritage going and honoring these guys it’s long overdue. The Beirut bombing is synonymous with Camp Lejeune and it’s up to us here, the Marines and sailors here, to keep the history going and make sure we pass that onto people,” Bailey said.
Proceeds of the ride will benefit the Corpsmen Memorial Foundation and its goal of building a corpsman memorial at Lejeune Memorial Gardens.