CHERRY POINT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, N.C., Nov. 4, 1983 (UPI) - President Reagan paid homage Friday to the U.S. servicemen killed in Lebanon and Grenada, telling their families America must risk lives ''to prevent humankind from drowning in a sea of tyranny.''
In a somber and patriotic speech after attending a memorial service at nearby Camp Lejeune, home of the 2nd Marine Division, Reagan said: ''If this country is to remain a force for good in the world, we will face times like these -- times of sadness and loss.''
''But, in such times we must draw together and console ourselves with the understanding that our country stands tall among nations and is carrying a heavy responsibility.''
Reagan, who met briefly with about 200 relatives of slain Marines and said later, ''I think all Americans would cradle them in our arms if we could. We share their sorrow.''
He said global terrorism is continuing and the nations of the world needed to stand firm.
''In the Middle East this morning we have learned of yet another terrorist assault similar to the attack against our Marines, this time against an Israeli site in Tyre, Lebanon,'' he said.
''Freedom is being tested throughout the world,'' Reagan declared, noting that Burma Friday severed relations with Pyongyang, blaming North Korea for an Oct. 9 bomb blast that killed 21 prominent South Koreans.
The president said he will be carrying a message to South Korea when he flies there next week -- ''a message of revulsion at this atrocity, determination to stand with our friends in support of freedom.''
At least 230 Marines died in a terrorist bombing of Marine headquarters in Beirut Oct. 23 and 18 servicemen were killed in the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada last week.
In a steady cold rain, the president and first lady Nancy Reagan, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz joined about 5,000 others who attended the outdoor service honoring the dead servicemen on the banks of the New River.
''The lord has given us a day to match our mood of anquish and grief,'' said chaplain Commodore John McNamara, who offered a prayer.
Reagan shook the hands of a number of Marines, wearing rain ponchos and sitting in wheelchairs, who had been wounded in Beirut, telling each one ''God bless you.''
Several ranks of Marines sat erect through the emotional ceremony while wives, parents and children huddled in the cold. The Marine band played the national anthems of the United States, Britain, France and Italy, which all have troops in the Middle East peace-keeping force.
''America seeks no new territory, nor do we wish to dominate others,'' the president said in his speech. ''Yet we commit our resources and risk the lives of those in our armed forces to rescue others from bloodshed and turmoil, and to prevent humankind from drowning in a sea of tyranny.''
Lashing out at critics of the U.S.-led Grenada invasion, he said, ''We weren't about to wait for the Iran crisis to repeat itself, only this time in our own neighborhood -- the Caribbean.''
''Some of those so quick to criticize our operation in Grenada, I invite them to read the letters I've received from those (rescued U.S. medical) students and their families,'' Reagan said.
''The students know this was no invasion; it was a rescue mission,'' Reagan said, speaking at the Marine air station here.
Reagan has arranged for some 300 students and military personnel to visit the White House Monday for a ''welcome home'' celebration, an aide said later.
Camp Lejeune, where the memorial service was held Friday, is the largest Marine base on the East Coast, covering 110,000 acres. Before Reagan's visit, the last president to come to the camp was John Kennedy in April 1962.
Reagan had passed up the several memorial services held at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the flag-draped coffins were returned home. But he has publicly hailed the Marine Corps and America's mission abroad on several occasions in the past week. Before leaving the White House, Reagan met with the family of Marine Cpl. Thomas Perron, who was killed in the Beirut bombing.
''The world looks to America for leadership. And America looks to the men in its armed forces, the corps of Marines, to the Navy, the Army,'' he said Friday.