After 30 years, heartbroken twin says goodbye to his brother

Posted Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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sanders Although he was at the funeral, and was present later when military officials presented medals to his mother, Michael Coleman was not ready to accept that his 19-year-old twin brother, Marcus, was dead.

The funeral director had recommended a closed casket because of the condition of the body, so Michael and his mom never saw it, causing Michael to fantasize for years that the person in the coffin was not his brother. He chose instead to believe that Marcus had survived the attack and would one day show up at the front door.

Marcus had joined the Army when he was 18 and was in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983, when two suicide truck bombers detonated explosives outside an American barracks, killing a total of 299 people, 241 of them Americans. Marcus was one of the three soldiers killed, along with 220 Marines and 18 sailors, all part of a multinational peacekeeping force during the Lebanese civil war.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of what was the deadliest overseas attack on Americans since World War II, Michael is ready to say goodbye to his brother. And he wants to do it in a special memorial service, probably at their high school, Dallas’ Thomas Jefferson, which planted a tree and placed a plaque in Marcus’ honor after his death.

Raised in west Dallas before moving to the North Park/Love Field area of the city, the twins were the last of their parents’ 10 kids, with Marcus being the youngest — by a few minutes.

“Me and my brother lost our father at the age of 8,” Michael said, adding that they naturally grew up being very close.

He remembers the last time he and Marcus spent time together. It was during the Christmas holiday season of December 1982/January 1983 when his brother was on leave after basic training. Like the kids they were, they ended up wrestling in the snow, Michael said.

After the holidays, Marcus reported back to the Army and Michael returned to his job at Texas Instruments in Abilene.

“I never really said goodbye to my twin brother,” Michael, 49, wrote recently in a message addressed partly to me, and partly to Marcus. “My Mama called me and said Marcus was missing, from the bombing, and I should come right home, and I did. … The military said he was dead a day or two later after I came home. It was all surreal.”

Michael recalls an incident when the brothers were 16. He took a hot link that Marcus had cooked and, because he never chewed his food well, choked on it.

“He used the Heimlich maneuver and saved my life,” Michael said. “But I was not there to save him.”

Marcus had written his brother many letters, Michael said, “where he was talking about the future, and me and him doing things together. He never said anything about being scared or afraid.”

Michael, who says he thinks about his brother “in some shape, form or fashion every single day,” began drinking to soothe his pain, never really talking to anyone about how Marcus’ death had affected him until he got into counseling a few years ago.

He has been in recovery for five years and now works as a support tech for a center that treats substance abuse and mental illness.

Of course, he has thought even more about his brother as the anniversary of his death approaches, and as he plans the memorial service for him.

“Marcus, I will see you on the other side, and thank you for watching over me all these 30 years,” Michael wrote in the letter last week. “I love you!”

He added, “Now, after 30 years, I say goodbye. To my twin, best friend, Brother Marcus, thank you for being with me all this time. I would or could not have made it without you.”

Bob Ray Sanders’ column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders

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