Oct 12

Ten Years Later: Remembering USS Cole

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8:55 AM

By

Ten years ago, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig reflected on the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. Today we remember and honor the crew with his words, written in his Proceedings magazine article, “America Loves Its Citizens”:

“Mr. Secretary, we will save this ship. We will repair this ship. We will take this ship home, and we will sail this ship again to sea.”

One of the reasons that I love America is because it loves its citizens. In other times, and on this very day in other places, people are regarded as means and not ends, as fodder, stepping-stones, dispensable assets. Because we are not like that, we grieve today. We see in the 17 people who died on October 12th 17 wonders, 17 sons and daughters. We mourn brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, and those who will never be mothers and fathers. Seventeen unique people. We cherish them. We grieve because we could not protect them. Instead, they died protecting us.

That we live in America is, in itself, an act of grace. We came to it naturally; we were born into it. Or we were welcomed as immigrants; we were naturalized. By either route, America has been for everyone of us a gift, and what a stupendous gift, a country that was built collectively but cherishes us individually; a country built of the effort of servicemen and statesmen, farmers and factory workers, those who toiled on the railroad and those who bankrolled it. Our philosophers, our politicians, our priests, all together, created something bigger than any of us; and then, they gave it to us.

Any true gift is infused with opportunity, and responsibility that arises from that opportunity. An inherent talent, a good education, money in the bank—they all cry to the recipient, What will you make of this? What will you do individually? What will we do collectively in light of how many have done so much for us?

These 17 answered that question. They didn’t opt just for themselves; they didn’t stay home; they didn’t turn away from their country. They put themselves out there. They joined a family, the United States Navy, and the USS Cole (DDG-67)—a ship, the very essence of a group enterprise. And think not just of these 17. Think of the 39 who were injured, and then think of the 240 beyond them; the 240 who absorbed the shock of the explosion, who saw the death of 17, the injury of two score, but who turned to and fought on; fought together for their ship and for their shipmates.

For two days and two nights, they fought under the most extreme conditions—blood, bent and broken steel, flooding, uncertainty, and danger. They saved their ship, their injured—every one of them—and each other. And then their generators failed. The waters rose, and they, had to do it all over again. Waistdeep in water, manning bucket brigades by hand, they did it again. Amidst all of that, their captain said to me,

“Mr. Secretary, we will save this ship. We will repair this ship. We will take this ship home, and we will sail this ship again to sea.”

In every gift there is a responsibility. The Cole has given us a gift. The 17 join more than 1.3 million service men and women who have given us their lives. Thirty-nine from the Cole were injured; 240 fought on. All together, they added a building block to America. Will we, as recipients of this gift, live up to them? I think we will; we’re Americans.

Thank you, Cole.

Also: USS Cole (DDG 67): A guest post from CDR Kirk S. Lippold, USN (Ret.)

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