Local Military News

Parris Island in the 80s: Beirut bombing motivated Beaufort man

The TV flashed images of dark billowing smoke, Marines being carried off on stretchers and buildings reduced to rubble.

The terrorist bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, had stunned and angered Americans, including Raul Dominguez, who was 19 and living in Miami on Oct. 23, 1983.

"When that thing just came on the television, it was just like I've got to join. I've got to serve," Dominguez said. "At that moment my passion to serve my country welled up on me like a raging river."

Six months later, on April 12, 1984, the bus ride from Charleston to Parris Island seemed like it would never end.

As he heard the creaking of the steel bridge beneath the tires, Dominguez began to fixate on one looming thought: "Oh my God. What have I done?"

The bus stopped. The air brakes exhaled; the door opened.

"And here come the lions," Dominguez recently recalled, referring to the drill instructors.

"They just get in there, and they start screaming and yelling. They tell you to get on these yellow footprints. Your knees are knocking, and your jaw is clacking from the nervousness."

He recalls one time when he thought he was going to die at the hands of one of those lions.

He had successfully answered his drill instructor's three questions, and as the DI turned, Dominguez let out his breath.

"That's all I did," he said. "I took a big sigh."

That got him 25 minutes of push-ups, leg lifts and other calisthenics.

When it was over, he couldn't stand up.

"They had to carry me back to my bunk," he said. "And then I couldn't even put my rifle together because my hands wouldn't function. So I got yelled at more for that."

Eventually they let him recuperate for 30 minutes, and it was back to drilling.

"I'll never forget that day ever in my life," he said.

But Dominguez, who stayed in the Corps for 12 years and settled down in Beaufort with his wife, Denise, and three children, doesn't regret a minute of his time on Parris Island. He's now the maintenance manager for Port Royal Plantation on Hilton Head Island.

When asked about Parris Island graduation, he rubbed his arms as the goose bumps rose.

"It was probably the greatest sense of accomplishment in my life at that point -- knowing that I spent 12 weeks with a group of guys I didn't know, who I would basically give my life for," he said.