BOONSBORO — Along with the family and friends Wednesday remembering the life and loss 11 years ago of U.S. Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley was someone who was there the day the USS Cole was attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists.
Jerry Wright of Frederick, a shipmate of Wibberley’s, joined the USS Cole Remembrance Day ceremony at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where a wreath was laid at his grave.
Wibberley and another Washington County sailor, Fireman Patrick H. Roy, were among the 17 crew members killed in the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the ship as it sat at anchor in a Yemeni port.
“He was a great shipmate. When I came aboard ... I was his apprentice,” said Wright, recalling how Wibberley took the time to familiarize him with the Cole when he joined its crew on July 1, 2000. Wright, who left the Navy in 2004, said he became close with Wibberley during the 3 1/2 months before the attack.
The wreath-laying ceremony for Wibberley was followed by another to honor Roy, who was from Keedysville, at the Antietam National Cemetery.
“We’re always very grateful the people remember,” Michael Roy said after the ceremony, which concluded with a rifle salute by a Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard and the playing of taps.
Michael Roy said his late son now has a brother about the same age. To watch him grow makes the father think about what could have been for the son whose life was cut short at the age of 19.
“It makes you wonder and think about what he’s missed,” Roy said. “We missed out on those things, too.”
Tom Wibberley also wonders about the future his son lost. Like Roy, Craig Wibberley, who was from Williamsport, was also 19.
“Cmdr. (Kirk) Lippold intended to send Craig home early from the cruise to attend information technician school,” Wibberley said, speaking of the Cole’s captain. Once his son completed that, Wibberley said Lippold told him “he was going to submit his name for Officers Candidate School.”
Wibberley said his family remains in touch with Lippold and spoke with the retired officer on Sunday. Lippold was attending a memorial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, he said.
“The family and friends of Fireman Roy still yearn to turn back the hands of time,” said Paul Johnson, the VFW District 3 commander. “To embrace their loved one once more. To see him blossom from a teenager to a man. To become a husband and a parent.”
Along with the 17 dead, 39 members of the Cole’s crew were injured, Maryland VFW Senior Vice Commander Carl Vogt said. The remaining 240 crew members struggled for two days to save the ship from sinking, he said.
“We grieve because we could not protect them,” Vogt said at the ceremonies. “Instead, they protected us.”