NORFOLK (NNS) -- In remembrance of the attack on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67), family, friends and service members – both past and present – gathered at Naval Station Norfolk, Oct. 12, to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the ship’s bombing, with a wreath-laying ceremony and tolling of the bell.
The solemn ceremony honored and celebrated the 17 shipmates who perished in the attack, as well as the resolve and warfighting attitude the “Mighty Cole” continues to embrace.
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Christopher Grady who served as Cole’s commanding officer from January 2003 to July 2004 provided the keynote address.
“We are here today to remember and ensure the many sacrifices are never forgotten,” said Grady. “The Sailors who gave their lives in service to this nation are indisputably heroes. When their country called, they answered.”
He also thanked Gold Star Families for their enduring strength, dignity and grace.
Grady explained the Navy was undeterred by the attack 18 years ago and highlighted how Cole and other U.S. ships continue to remain resolute, ready and lethal.
“We will continue to operate forward – shaping the security environment, signaling our resolve and protecting our interests.”
Cmdr. James J. Von St. Paul, Cole’s commanding officer, also shared remarks.
“Today, we come together to remember our 17 fallen shipmates, to pay homage to their sacrifices and the enduring sacrifices of their families, and to continue our lasting commitment to honoring them through our actions and deeds.”
Deployed to the Middle East on this day in 2000, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer stopped briefly for refueling in the port of Aden, Yemen. At approximately 11:18 a.m., unknown to Cole security, a small boat with terrorists aboard came alongside the ship. Suddenly, a highly explosive bomb detonated alongside Cole. The explosion was so massive that it crumbled a 40-by-60 foot hole on the port side of the ship, taking the lives of 17 Sailors and injuring 39 others. Cole’s Sailors courageously fought fires and flooding for the following 96 hours to keep the ship afloat.
The ceremony ended with a bell tolling and reading of the names of the 17 heroes whose lives were sacrificed. It was held indoors due to inclement weather.
Despite the rain and soggy grounds, some family members visited the nearby Cole Memorial. It includes 17 low-level markers that stand for the youthfulness of the Sailors, whose lives were lost. 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 symbolizes the darkness and despair that overcame the ship Oct. 12, 2000. Additionally, 28 black pine trees were planted nearby to represent the 17 Sailors and the 11 children the heroes left behind.
For more news from USS Cole (DDG 67), visit www.navy.mil/local/ddg67/.