USS Cole 20th anniversary: Naval Station Norfolk honors lives of 17 lost sailors with ceremony Monday


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been 20 years since 17 sailors on the USS Cole were killed in a terror attack. On Monday, a remembrance ceremony honored them at Naval Station Norfolk.

The event began at 10:30 a.m. with guest speakers including 17 Gold Star families of sailors killed, the heroes who saved the ship, and current USS Cole members.

There was also be a wreath laying and a commemorative flyover.

It was a smaller crowd than years past, but surviving family members, heroes, and current Cole members joined together to honor those lost on that fateful day.

The mother of 22-year-old Cherone Gunn, who was killed in the attack on Oct. 12, 2000, remembers when she learned her son was one of the sailors killed.

“It’s difficult, it never goes away. You’re not supposed to outlive your children.”

Mona Gunn says he was on his first deployment, and the pain hasn’t gotten any easier.

“We don’t want people to forget the sacrifice that we’ve made by having the loss of a child serving our country.”

19 -year-old James McDaniels also died in the attack 20 years ago. His family was there Monday in his honor.

“We try to just remember him in a very good light and every now and then we will pull out the letters he wrote us before he passed on. And it’s a little unbearable to read, so we just try to keep it upbeat,” said his sister, Frederica Phoenix.

McDaniels left behind a mother, his siblings, and a son. McDaniels’ son, Daishann McDaniels, is now 19 himself and was never able to meet his father.

“My birthday is February 15th 2001,” Daishann McDaniels said. He was born four months after his father was killed in the attack. At 19, he has grown into the spitting image of his late father.

“I get it all the time — he’s pretty handsome,” he said.

He says this day is always hard, but he sees his father as a hero.

And what would his son say if his father were here today?

“I would like to tell him that I’m proud of him and I hope and pray that he is proud of me and I try to live my best to honor his name every day I live. I love him,” he said.

Although the lives of those lost may never be returned, the families have seen a different kind of justice come in the form of a lawsuit. Earlier this year, Sudan agreed to pay a $30 million settlement to the 17 families of the victims.

The agreement was in an effort to get removed from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Guest speakers included Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Adm. Robert J. Natter, retired, commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet/ Fleet Forces Command from 2000-2003; and Cmdr. Edward Pledger, current Cole commanding officer; along with as a Roll Call of Heroes.

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