DAYTONA BEACH — What were you doing the morning of Oct. 23, 1983? You probably can’t remember. Steve Gildow can’t forget.
About 6:20 a.m. that day, Gildow went from a peaceful slumber under the covers to a hellish scene of dismembered and dying men after a truck carrying thousands of pounds of TNT smashed into the building where he was staying and collapsed the four-story structure into a pile of flaming rubble.
Gildow was a 23-year-old Marine back then, stationed in Beirut as the Lebanese Civil War waged on and a group calling itself Islamic Jihad decided to create the truck bomb that killed 241 American servicemen.
Gildow survived the blast along with 114 other wounded Americans, but he’s left with one scar where a piece of metal went through his stomachand another scar where the waking nightmare pierced his psyche.
“I think that’s where my post traumatic stress disorder started,” the now 53-year-old Daytona Beach man said.
A few decades would pass before Gildow realized he had PTSD, and started to understand how it made his life slowly unravel. But first he would serve in more conflicts and peace-keeping missions that often get lost when other U.S. soldiers are honored for their time fighting in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We’re the forgotten ones,” said Gildow, who was involved in special operations and was awarded two Purple Hearts and two Humanitarian Medals.
The places Gildow found himself – Lebanon, Panama, the Persian Gulf – were a universe away from the Ohio streets of his childhood where war was a game that ended when it was time for dinner.
The Fighting Fifth Marines have and still are stationed on Camp Pendlenton CA.