U.S Navy to commemorate 10th anniversary of bombing of USS Cole
On Oct. 12, 2000, the USS Cole was attacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen sailors were killed, 39 were injured. In the days that followed, crew members worked tirelessly to keep the ship afloat, and since the attack, the USS Cole has resumed its duties and is regularly deployed.
On July 16, Commander Andrew Ehlers was appointed commanding officer of the missile destroyer. Ehlers, a 1989 Fayetteville-Manlius graduate, is the 10th to take command of the ship, and is responsible for its overall safety and welfare. He oversees 170 crew members.
"I was pretty honored because it is a ship with history," said Ehlers, emphasizing the heroism of the crew in the days following the attack. "[The crew members] refused to give up the ship, [which was then] rebuilt and put back into service. We sail today because sailors saved the ship. Itís our responsibility to keep the ship going and keep it operating and ensure their efforts werenít in vain."
Additionally, the ship is a symbol, he said, of our resolve as a nation in the global war on terror.
Seventeen brass stars displayed in the mess line, or cafeteria, honor the sailors who died during the bombing. Itís called the Hall of Heroes, Ehlers said.
"One of the primary areas affected was the mess line where we serve food," he said. "[The attack] happened at 11:18 a.m. and lunch was being served. So, it wasn't just one particular group of sailors, it was a mixture of the entire crew, including an officer, chief and junior sailors. It serves as a reminder every day for my sailors to feel why we're here and why we do what we do."
The flag that was flying when the ship was attacked is now encased and mounted on a wall.
"Every night, when the sun goes down, we do colors and then we lower the flag," Ehlers said. "The ship made the decision the day after the attack that they were not going to take that flag down."
The flag was lighted every night until it was towed out of port.
"It's another reminder for my crew of why we train, why we do what we do and the importance of the job we do," he said.
Ehlers' first month in command of the USS Cole was in the Middle East in the Gulf of Aden, just off the coast of Yemen. The crew was performing counter piracy operations as part of a NATO group, working with six different countries.
This week on Oct. 12, the U.S. Navy is holding a special ceremony in Norfolk, Va. to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attack. Host and featured speaker is Admiral John Harvey, commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Most of the families of those who were killed are attending, as well as the crew members who tended to the bombingís aftermath. Retired USS Cole Commanding Officer Kirk Lippold, who was on the ship the day of the attack, will also be present.
Lippold works hard to make sure the lessons learned through the bombing of the USS Cole are not forgotten, Ehlers said.