NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Seventeen Sailors killed aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) when it was attacked by terrorists in the Yemeni port of Aden 11 years ago on this date were honored in a ceremony Oct. 12, 2011.
The ceremony was held on board Naval Station Norfolk at the Cole Memorial site along the shores of the Elizabeth River. Present and former Cole crew members, family and friends were invited to reflect and memorialize their shipmates and loved ones during the ceremony which included a wreath-laying and reading the names of those who sacrificed their lives. Each individual's name was read, followed by a bell-ringing and a moment of silence.
"Today USS Cole is not a museum; she is not a memorial. She is a living, breathing, fighting warship, and she is so because those Sailors refused to give up the ship," said Cmdr. Drew Ehlers, Cole's current commanding officer. "Over the last year and a half it has been my great honor to command the USS Cole, and I am humbled in the knowledge that I share a history with those 'hero Sailors' of October, 2000."
Surviving members of that Cole crew have become a tight-knit group with family members of the Cole "hero Sailors." They convene each year to console one another.
"It hurts so bad that I lost my son, and there is a lot of pain and tears in that, but I have to come to represent him," commented Dianne McDaniels whose son Seaman James R. McDaniels lost his life in the attack. "It makes me feel good to come to this ceremony because there are others who know what I'm going through."
"The fellowship is good, but it is a sad time for family, friends and shipmates," added Master Chief Sonar Technician (SW) Paul Abney, who was trapped in the chiefs mess at the time of the attack.
"They are all in our hearts and close to us. We will also remember our heroes: the Marines, the HMS Marlborough, the USS Donald Cook, the shipyard workers, and all those who came over and helped us after the attack. They're all our heroes."
At the Cole Memorial site, 17 low-level markers stand for the youthfulness of the Sailors, whose lives were cut short. Three tall, granite monoliths, each bearing brass plaques, stand for the three colors of the American flag. A set of brown markers encircling the memorial symbolize the darkness and despair that overcame the ship. In addition, 28 black pine trees were planted to represent the 17 Sailors and the 11 children they left behind.
The memorial was funded by contributions from thousands of private individuals and businesses to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which gifted the memorial to the Navy. Its design originated as a vision of USS Cole crew members, who then teamed with Navy architects and the Society to finalize the project.
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