Long years later, Percy “Blackie” Trahan still flies the U.S. flag over his single-family home off Kaliste Saloom Road in Lafayette. It’s where he and his wife Shirley reared their lone son, Lex, a jewel of a young man who played football at Comeaux High, fished and hunted with his dad, then died, not yet 20, in service to the United States and mankind. Trahan lifts the flag on his own — his wife died last year — then returns to a home that friends say resembles a shrine to their missing Marine.
Lex Trahan, killed Oct. 23, 1983, wanted to be a mud engineer, an oil patch job both remunerative and in keeping with the local culture. Cajuns have worked the oil fields since Spindletop in Texas turned gusher in 1901, since the first Louisiana gusher followed near Jennings nine months after that.
But the first order of business for Trahan was U.S. Marine service, which meant a role in a multinational peacekeeping mission in Beirut, Lebanon. He left for the Marines after high school graduation, then for Beirut the following year. It was a “hot spot” and he knew it and that’s what he told his friends. He did not shrink from the task.
Trahan’s fate was settled not on the field of battle, where he would have defended the rights of endangered Lebanese people, but perhaps in his third floor-room in his barracks. That’s when a terrorist driving a truckload of explosives hurtled his vehicle through barriers at 6:20 a.m., pointed for the dorms where peacekeepers slept. The explosion left a hole 30 feet deep, 40 feet wide.
Percy Trahan got some good news last week: A U.S. District Court judge ruled the Trahans were entitled to an award of almost $50 million for the pain that Iran and its agents inflicted on the son and the parents he left behind. It represents justice delayed — more than 36 years after their son’s death — but it acknowledges the loss the Trahans bore. The father was moved to tears — twice — when his attorney, Warren Perrin of Lafayette, called him.
The court win came by default — the Iranians did not respond to the court action filed through the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. But the penalty will be paid, Perrin said, probably through Iranian money held in European hands.
No penalty can repay parents’ grief in losing the life of their child. The Trahans’ grief has shadowed their lives, but the court victory suggests that at least in the civilized world, Iran’s transgressions are seen as lawless, sinful acts of terrorism. That’s not consolation enough, but it is a beginning.