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USS Cole bombing victims remembered

October 13, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - Three years have passed since the USS Cole was attacked, but Patrick H. Roy has not been forgotten.

Amid a sea of gray square headstones at Antietam National Cemetery - marking the heroism of soldiers from as far back as the Civil War to as recently as the Korean War - Roy is buried, a stark white monument to the 17 sailors killed in a terrorist attack on Oct. 12, 2000, as they stopped to refuel their ship in Aden, Yemen.

In separate ceremonies Sunday about 30 war veterans honored two of the attack's victims: Keedysville native Roy, who was a fireman aboard the USS Cole, and Williamsport native Craig B. Wibberley, who served as one of the ship's seamen.

State members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stopped at Antietam National Cemetery first. A procession of veterans wound past the graves of world war veterans to the site of Roy's grave where they prayed, played "Taps" and fired a three-shot salute.

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Roy's stepmother Anne Roy, 47, said she appreciates the VFW's support. Each year on the anniversary of her stepson's death, the crowds get larger, she said.

"There's a little bit of irony," she said. "It's always a reminder, but of course we'll always remember."

Ken Britter, state chaplain for the Maryland VFW, assured the Roy family that veterans never will forget their loss, either.

"In the rising of the sun and its going down, we will remember him," Britter said during a prayer. "He is a part of us and we shall always remember him."

The Roys placed a wreath of 17 white roses, symbolizing the 17 lives lost aboard the USS Cole, on Patrick Roy's grave.

The veterans later traveled by bus to the site of Wibberley's grave at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Boonsboro, where they performed a similar ceremony, also leaving behind a bouquet of 17 white roses.

The Wibberley family attended a national ceremony at the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Station, where a monument was dedicated two years ago to the fallen crew, said Michael Andrew, coordinator of Craig B. Wibberley's service and commander of VFW Post 10421 of Brunswick, Md.

Aside from the Roys, who attended both ceremonies, mainly veterans and their wives made up the audiences at both sites.

One family, after services inside St. Mark's, came out to honor Wibberley, who they did not know.

Robert Hawfield, 46, of Boonsboro, said he was in the Navy and wanted to show his children, ages 3 and 5, how Americans memorialize their fallen heroes.

"It stirs up a lot of emotion knowing he was serving on the same type of ship that I was on," he said.

Britter said veterans will return to the grave sites of Roy and Wibberley for the next 17 years.

Andrew, who said he felt bad for the families, fears fewer people will come to the anniversary ceremonies after Sunday.

"We care because (Wibberley's) a local man who was going over there to keep the peace in that region. It's a terrible thing to be attacked by terrorists," he said.

Britter, who served in the Vietnam War, said he doesn't know either family, but it makes no difference.

"A fallen comrade is just like one of our own," he said. "He's a vet, he's our brother."

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