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Ceremonies salute local USS Cole victims

October 13, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - It has been four years since U.S. Navy Fireman Patrick Roy, 19, of Keedysville, and Seaman Craig Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, died in an attack on the USS Cole but Wibberley's father said Tuesday the memories and pain remain fresh.

Tom Wibberley made the comment Tuesday on the anniversary of the Cole attacks, following separate ceremonies at the graves of his son and Roy.

Both ceremonies were organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Tom Wibberley said that when he has a quiet moment his mind inevitably wanders to thoughts of his son, Craig.

At times, he said, he forgets his son is dead. "Then I realize he is not going to come back. Some days it is hard to believe he is not coming back ... Some days I think how much it hurts. I think, 'Why did he have to die?'" Tom Wibberley said.

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The terrorist action that killed 17 sailors brought the victims' families together, Patty Wibberley said Tuesday.

"They are our family now, the Cole family," she said.

On past anniversaries of the 2000 attack on the Cole in Yemen, the Wibberley family attended a national ceremony at the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Station, where a monument was dedicated to the fallen crew members.

This year, the family decided to attend the annual ceremony at Craig Wibberley's grave at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Boonsboro.

About 30 people, mostly veterans, attended the ceremony that was to start at 11:42 a.m., the exact moment the explosion rocked the Cole.

The veterans and the Wibberleys later attended a 1 p.m. ceremony at Patrick Roy's grave at Antietam National Cemetery. About 70 people attended that ceremony, including Roy's mother, Kate Brown, his father, Michael Roy and his stepmother, Anne Roy.

Tom and Patty Wibberley, who moved from Williamsport to Boonsboro, spoke to Roy's parents after the ceremonies.

Members of the VFW spoke at both ceremonies, expressing condolences and urging people to never forget how the sailors died.

"They did not die in a traditional war. We pray for peace so this never happens again," Ronald Dickens, state commander of the VFW, said at the ceremony for Wibberley.

"All 17 ... took their tour of duty to a port we call heaven," Dickens said at the ceremony for Roy.

After Dickens spoke, Kate Brown of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., thanked those who attended the ceremony.

She said she is honored that VFW members feels so strongly about the deaths that they organize and attend the ceremonies each year.

The ceremony, and the attendance, is a moving experience, Michael Roy said.

"It is a very fine thing," he said.

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