Chesterton couple recalls son's sacrifice, service 30 years after Beirut bombing

2013-10-22T17:30:00Z 2013-10-23T10:05:12Z Chesterton couple recalls son's sacrifice, service 30 years after Beirut bombingJohn Scheibel john.scheibel@nwi.com, (219) 548-4358 nwitimes.com

CHESTERTON | People here still remember the sacrifice of Staff Sgt. Thomas Thorstad 30 years ago.

The 27-year-old Marine was one of 241 soldiers, sailors and Marines killed in the Oct. 23, 1983 bombing of the First Battalion, 8th Marines Headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.

When U.S., French and Italian forces were asked to serve as peacekeeper in Lebanon the prior year, Thorstad was among the Americans called to serve.

Jim and Barbara Thorstad said it’s no surprise he was sent. He was a fine Marine, they said.

“He was a volunteer, he loved his country, he joined the Marine Corps – that was about it,” Jim said on Tuesday when asked to describe his son.

The Thorstads are spending this anniversary at home, but have spent many of the previous anniversaries at Camp Lejune, N.C., where a ceremony is held every five years to pay tribute to the fallen troops.

The trip provided them comfort and support over the years, Jim Thorstad said, meeting with families who dealt with the same sacrifice.

The Chesterton community also remembers their son, Jim Thorstad said noting someone in town mentioned his son in the past few days.

He was well liked, they said, noting his sense of humor.

“He was a clown – everybody liked him because he was funny,” said his father.

But he was also patriotic, a trait that led to his enlistment in the Marine Corps after graduating from Chesterton High School in 1974.

His parents said he didn’t want to go to college, and were surprised how much time he spent in training in the Marines.

That training in several areas – including counterintelligence – brought him respect in the Marine Corps.

And from his family.

Staff Sgt. Thorstad left behind a wife and two sons.

Despite his death, their family remains close, Jim Thorstad said. They gather regularly for holidays – times when they think about, and miss, their son.

The Thorstads, however, said they remain frustrated with U.S. policy that has kept servicemen and women in the Middle East.

A statement they released to local newspapers question what the U.S. has accomplished in the last 30 years and suggests policy-makers remove our troops from the region.

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