Sailors remembered

Men lost in USS Cole bombing honored

Men lost in USS Cole bombing honored

October 13, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


Two Washington County families shared and relived their anguish Wednesday, five years after losing sailors when terrorists bombed the USS Cole.

Patrick Roy and Craig Wibberley, 19-year-old friends, forever will be linked as two of the 17 U.S. Navy sailors who died in the explosion.

The first of two remembrance ceremonies Wednesday was at Antietam National Cemetery near Sharpsburg, where Roy is buried.

Many of the nearly 100 people who attended - including Roy's family - then drove seven miles to St. Mark's Episcopal Church at Lappans, where Wibberley's grave is.


"You don't want to remember the actual day," Craig's mother, Patty Wibberley, said through tears afterward, "but you do remember your child - all the good times you had."

Wibberley said she and her husband, Thomas, are offering comfort to a local family whose suffering is more recent.

Thomas Wibberley went to South Hagerstown High School with Greg Young, whose son, Ryan, 32, a security contractor and former Navy SEAL, died last month in Iraq when a bomb exploded.

"We keep in touch with them every day," Patty Wibberley said.

Patrick Roy's mother, Kate Brown, said it's hard to be at public memorial ceremonies, but "it's important for me to keep (the terrorist bombing) in front of people .... I'm standing up for Patrick."

The Wibberleys and Kate Brown's family are among the Cole bombing relatives who sued the Republic of Sudan in July 2004. The suit alleges that Sudan "provided material support in the form of funding, direction and cover" to the al-Qaida terrorist network, which carried out the bombing.

Two months ago, a federal judge in Virginia rejected most of Sudan's motion to dismiss the complaint. Sudan has appealed the decision.

The USS Cole was bombed Oct. 12, 2000, while refueling in the port of Aden in Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

Although Antietam National Cemetery was largely for Civil War soldiers who died, Patrick Roy has a plot among veterans of 20th-century wars. His tombstone is noticeably newer and whiter than most.

The grave site was adorned with flowers, wreaths and a small, burning candle Wednesday, a day Veterans of Foreign Wars officials praised and prayed for Roy.

Sailors on the Cole "wore their patriotism and their pride, with a hope for a better future for themselves and their families," Maryland VFW Commander D. Harvey Cunningham Jr. said.

A firing party thundered three rounds into the still air.

Patrick's stepmother, Anne Roy, said the light and smell of the turning season vividly reminded her of the day she heard he had died.

Melony Shaffer's 17-month-old daughter, Aliya, eyed, touched and smelled the flowers on Roy's grave.

Shaffer said she served with Patrick and Craig on the USS Cole, but left the Navy before the mission that ended with the bombing.

She described Patrick, whom she dated, as "very sweet and gentle," with nice blue eyes.

Like Patrick, Craig was quiet, until you got to know him, she said.

After a shorter, more religious ceremony at St. Mark's, about 20 Navy personnel from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., filed past and shook hands with the Wibberleys.

It was an emotional day for Craig's sister, Toni, a Paramount Elementary School teacher.

Asked for her favorite memory of her younger brother, Toni smiled and said, "Being kids."

"His smile," Patty Wibberley said. "He was very friendly and had a lot of friends - a great sense of humor."

She said she and her husband saved money for Craig to attend college, but he chose the Navy instead and told them to use the money for a cruise.

"He really wanted to defend his country," Patty Wibberley said.

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