The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

“We will Remain Always Faithful.”

By on November 3, 2019


As I travel Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District, I often visit local high schools so that young adults have the opportunity to hear from their elected representative. One of the questions I get most is not about why I ran for office or the day-to-day work of a Congressman. What I am asked most often is why I wanted to become a Marine. What made me want to join?

When I enlisted in 1979 as a young man, I wanted a challenge. I wanted to serve and to be a part of something bigger. I wanted to be in the company of heroes.

That is what led me to the United States Marine Corps. Like every Marine, I went to boot camp and took an oath to God, to Corps, and to country.

Semper Fidelis is not just a slogan or creed; it is a way of life that only those who have earned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor can fully understand. From Latin, the phrase means always faithful.

Semper Fi is part of the very fabric of every Marine, past and present.

Semper Fidelis is not just a slogan or creed; it is a way of life that only those who have earned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor can fully understand.

Having later become an officer, I served as a First Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. Our battalion had a rich history, having fought at places like Guam and Iwo Jima in World War II, and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Our motto was Fortune Favors the Brave.

In 1983, we were ordered to Beirut, Lebanon as part of the multinational peacekeeping force during the Lebanese Civil War. I spent time ashore as the battalion liaison officer. Most evenings, I would go to the roof of the Marine barracks and look out on the horizon. The crack of gunfire made it very clear the danger unfolding not far from where I sat, on top of the roof next to the American flag.

Though we came in peace, I can attest that there was no shortage of bravery among the Marines with which I served.

1st Lieutenant Greg Pence with two of his fellow Marines.

On October 23rd, an Iranian National affiliated with Hezbollah – a terror group founded, trained and financially supported by the Iranian regime – drove a truck bomb into the very barracks I called home, killing 241 American servicemembers, 220 of which were my fellow Marines.

It was the deadliest day for the Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima.

It is by the grace of God that I was not among those American Heroes who were stolen from us. My battalion shipped out 10 days before the bombing, bound for the Indian Ocean. I was able to come home to my wife, Denise, who was expecting our first child, and my family in Columbus, Indiana.

Though I will never know exactly why I was spared when so many were not, I have never forgotten those American heroes.

Earlier this year, I joined with my colleague, Congressman Ruben Gallego, a fellow Marine from Arizona, in introducing H.R. 2790, Our Obligation to Recognize American Heroes Act.

Or, to put the bill in Marine terms, the OORAH Act.

As a Beirut Veteran, I understand that Our First Duty is to Remember.

This legislation would allow the Gold Star families who lost a loved one in the attack to execute on the $1.68 billion in Iranian funds currently held by a European-based firm. These funds were laundered through New York before making their way to Europe, where they sit just outside the hands of justice.

I could not be more pleased that the United States House of Representatives came together over the summer to pass the OORAH Act by an overwhelming vote of 425 – 6, while the Senate has agreed to similar language.

My hope is that the OORAH Act will soon become law so that we can hold accountable the terrorists responsible – and those who funded them – for the murder of 241 patriots and provide a sliver of justice for the families they left behind.

I am also proud to have coauthored a bipartisan resolution that would make October 23, 2019 a national day of remembrance. We should do so not only for the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines lost more than three decades ago, but also for every veteran who has so nobly worn the uniform of our Armed Forces.

As a Beirut Veteran, I understand that Our First Duty is to Remember.

On this Veterans Day, we remember. And, we will remain Always Faithful.

Semper Fi.

Greg Pence represents the 6th District of Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. Greg joined the Marine Corps in 1979 in his hometown of Columbus, Indiana.

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