An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News Stories
U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

Cole Holds Ceremony on 20th Anniversary of Terrorist Attack

by Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Public Affairs
12 October 2020

USS Cole (DDG 67) hosted a pierside ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk Oct. 12, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on Cole, to honor the Sailors killed and to celebrate the heroism of the ship’s crew.

VIDEO | 55:28 | Ceremony Commemorates 20th Anniversary of USS Cole Bombing

Many of Cole’s Gold Star Families and “Cole Heroes” attended the ceremony. Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Cole’s fifth commanding officer, reflected on those killed in the attack, but also recognized the heroic actions of the crew.

“We were extremely proud to take Cole on her returning deployment. And, we were inspired to honor our fallen shipmates, and felt a deep sense of responsibility to live up to the examples set by our predecessors,” said Grady, the commanding officer who led Cole on her first deployment following the attack. “To this day, I am still inspired by my experiences in command when the crew would respond, almost instinctively, to the challenges we faced with, ‘We want to deploy. We have to do the hardest stuff. We have to do this right, because the 17 would have it no other way.’”

Adm. Christopher Grady, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks at the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) 20th Anniversary memorial ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk.
SLIDESHOW | 6 images | Adm. Christopher W. Grady Remarks NORFOLK (Oct. 12, 2020) Adm. Christopher Grady, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks at the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) 20th Anniversary memorial ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. USS Cole was attacked by terrorists at 11:18 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2000, while moored for refueling in the Port of Aden, Yemen. The explosive bomb created a 40-by-60-foot hole on the port side of the ship, and the Cole's Sailors fought fires and flooding for the following 96 hours to keep the ship afloat. Commemoration events on the 20th Anniversary of the attack remember and honor the 17 Sailors who were killed, the 37 who were injured and the Gold Star families. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Darien G. Kenney)
Grady introduced Adm. Robert J. Natter, retired, commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet/Fleet Forces Command from 2000-2003, who described the overwhelming response from the Hampton Roads community, state and local leaders, shipyard workers, the FBI, international partners and allies, all asking what they could do to help. 

“Cole answered the call that day, they answered the call to general quarters, they answered the call to duty, exactly as they had sworn their oath to do, and exactly how they were trained to do,” said Natter.

Each speaker said these heroes embodied the “Determined Warrior” culture the Cole crew strives to carry on today.

“Today, the crew of USS Cole is preparing and training for our next deployment, and our Sailors proudly shine 17 gold stars laid into the deck of the mess line every day,” Cmdr. Edward Pledger, current Cole commanding officer, said. “These stars are a tribute to the 17 Cole Heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice, and they remind me how today’s Determined Warriors carry on the fighting spirit of those who went before us.” 

During Grady’s remarks, he introduced a video about Battle Stations 21, the Navy’s Recruit Training Center’s damage control trainer in Great Lakes, Michigan. The trainer exposes all new recruits to an emergency response scenario based on the Cole attack, ensuring future generations of Sailors carry forward the warrior spirit of Cole.

Following remarks from the speakers, the ceremony included a Roll Call of Heroes, the reading of the names of the Sailors who died in the attack; a wreath dedication; and a rifle salute. A scheduled missing-man aerial salute by Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 was waived off due to poor visibility over the base.

“The ripples formed by the Cole heroes continue to spread across the world’s oceans to this day – and they will continue to do so well into the future,” said Grady. “Their actions epitomized America’s fighting spirit – bravery, toughness, tenacity, and a resolve to never give up – whatever the odds.”

At 11:18 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2000, when Cole was moored in Aden, Yemen, a small craft approached the ship and detonated an explosive device. The blast caused a 40-by-60-foot hole in the ship's port side. The attack killed 17 crewmembers and injured 37 additional Sailors. Crewmembers fought the fires and stopped the flooding for hours following the attack. The Cole returned to sea in 2002.

The names of the Sailors killed in the attack are:

  • Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kenneth E. Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.

  • Chief Electronics Technician Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.

  • Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina M. Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.

  • Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy L. Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas

  • Signalman Cherone L. Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga.

  • Seaman James R. McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.

  • Engineman 2nd Class Marc I. Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.

  • Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Ronald S. Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Fla.

  • Seaman Lakiba N. Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.

  • Engineman Fireman Joshua L. Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md.

  • Fireman Patrick H. Roy, 19, of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y.

  • Electronics Warfare Technician 1st Class Kevin S. Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.

  • Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester M. Santiago, 22, of Kingsville, Texas

  • Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy L. Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.

  • Fireman Gary G. Swenchonis, Jr., 26, of Rockport, Texas

  • Lt. j.g. Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss.

  • Seaman Craig B. Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md.

More information is available online at  |  |  Navy FOIA  |  DoD Accessibility/Section 508  |  No Fear Act  |  Open Government  |  Plain Writing Act  |  Veterans Crisis Line  |  VA Vet Center  |  FVAP  |   DoD Safe Helpline  |  Navy SAPR  |  NCIS Tips  |  Privacy Policy  |  Site Map  |  Contact US
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command   |   1562 Mitscher Ave., Suite 250   |   Norfolk, Virginia 23551-2487
Official U.S. Navy Website
Veteran's Crisis Line