USS Cole victims honored on anniversary of deaths

October 13, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Tractor-trailers and cars paused on the Halfway Boulevard bridge over Interstate 81 Thursday as a plaque dedicating the bridge to two 19-year-old Washington County men killed in the 2000 USS Cole terrorist attacks was unveiled on the sixth anniversary of their deaths.

U.S. Navy Fireman Patrick Roy and U.S. Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley were among 17 sailors killed when al-Qaida suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000.

On Thursday, wind whipped the flags held by color guard members of AMVETS Post 10 and the Marine Corps League Bulldog Detachment as speakers addressed a small crowd gathered on a cordoned lane of the bridge.

Maryland Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who coordinated the bridge's dedication, said he had at first hoped to rename Dual Highway in the sailors' honor. He said he later determined the Halfway Boulevard bridge, which Craig Wibberley's father, Tom Wibberley, helped build, would be more appropriate.


He said Wibberley and Roy were "the first victims of terrorism in the history of Washington County. It kind of reminds us all of what we have to look at in this world."

Tom Wibberley, an equipment manager for C. William Hetzer Inc., which completed the bridge in 2001, said he was in his office when his mother called to tell him of the attack.

Wibberley said the decision to dedicate the bridge was "very appropriate."

Michael Roy, Patrick Roy's father, and Anne Roy, Patrick Roy's stepmother, agreed.

The ship's commander, Kirk Lippold, attended services held earlier Thursday at the gravesites of each sailor, Wibberley said.

"He thought a lot of Craig and had a lot of plans for Craig's future," he said. Wibberley said his son was to be trained to become a captain.

Laurie E. Atherholt, director of outreach and advocacy of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, told those present that "to be a veteran, one must know and determine the price of freedom ... It's unfortunate that sometimes the price is paid, but we can take comfort that the price was not paid in vain."

Robert L. Flanagan, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, said it is "somewhat unusual" for a bridge to be dedicated in this way.

Signs in the sailors' honor were put up near the bridge in 2004.

He said it was not a difficult decision to make to dedicate the bridge, but noted, "We would prefer not to do any more of these."

Munson thanked other members of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and Department of Transportation officials for their support.

Flanagan, looking toward the sailors' families, said, "On behalf of our government, we're here to thank you, to say thank you to you and your children, your lost children, to their making the sacrifice that they did."

The group that gathered Thursday was invited by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to a Hagerstown post for snacks afterward.

The plaque is on the bridge on the side facing the eastbound lanes of the boulevard.

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