LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – On the 37th anniversary of her brother’s death, a Lakeland native is returning home to honor Gold Star families like hers.
“I just remember a proud Marine, a dedicated Marine. He was dedicated,” said Lisa Weide.
Lakeland’s Brett Croft had a warm heart, a good nature and a mischievous side, his sister said.
“We were very close. We used to tell people in high school that we were twins but we weren’t. But we’d tell them that,” said Weide.
They were less than a year apart in age.
Weide and her brother made plans to climb the ranks of the military together.
Those plans were cut short on Oct. 23, 1983.
“I know there are no words that can express our sorrow and grief for the loss of those splendid young men and the injury to so many others,” then-President Ronald Reagan said at the time.
Cpl. Croft was one of 220 Marines and 21 other personnel killed in a bombing at Marine barracks in the Beirut airport in Lebanon. He was just days away from turning 21 years old.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced a bipartisan resolution on Friday to make Oct. 23 a day of remembrance.
“Thirty-seven years ago, Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist group, attacked the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut killing 241 U.S. Service Members,” Rubio said. “I am proud to join this bipartisan resolution, which would designate October 23, 2020, as a national day of remembrance in honor of the American heroes who lost their lives in the line of duty.”
The sight of Croft’s young face still brings a tear to his sister’s eye. Her little brother never gets any older.
In his memory, she lights a candle on the anniversary of his death.
“When it comes to today, it’s more hard-hitting because today was the day he was taken away from me,” she said, in tears.
Weide went on to serve her country for 25 years, retiring as a Lt. Col. in the Army.
She calls her Gold Star family status bittersweet.
“It’s an honor but of course the flip side of that, in order to be a Gold Star family member, that means you lost somebody,” she said.
Weide is returning to her hometown this weekend to attend the 11th annual Warrior Walk on Lake Hollingsworth.
It kicks off Saturday with a ceremony at 8:30 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Lakeland and culminates with a 3+ mile walk around Lake Hollingsworth.
“It’s to help us show the Gold Star families that they have support. They are loved. They are cherished,” said Jessica Ritchie, a lieutenant with the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps and organizer of the Warrior Walk.
Ritchie posted more than 400 crosses on the church’s front lawn to honor Floridians killed in recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She hopes to expand to earlier wars in the coming years.
“This is not just a number on a page. This is a name. It’s a picture. It’s a cross,” she said.
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