By Lt.j.g. Jacob Beckelhymer, Navigator, USS Cole (DDG 67)
You can’t miss them. The 17 gold stars running across the deck in front of COLE’s mess line. They stand for our 17 brothers and sisters who made the ultimate sacrifice. The Hall of Heroes, a shipboard memorial to the Sailors lost on the 12th of October 2000, prominently features a plaque with the names of the shipmates we lost that day. The Chief’s Mess is named Costelow’s Cove in honor of Chief Electronics Technician Costelow, who fell in the terrorist attack.
The physical reminders that COLE has a special place in the Navy’s history, and our nation’s Global War on Terror, came as no surprise when I checked aboard. Our organization prides itself on canonizing the heroic Sailors and heroic efforts that make up our proud Naval Tradition, and in recognizing them with the honors they earned. The intangible legacy of COLE’s 17 who died and the nearly 270 who survived to save this ship took me a little longer to notice, but is every bit as much an indelible part of these frames and bulkheads.
It is the spirit and the solidarity of several hundred Sailors who have served here in the last ten years, and in the day-to-day efforts of the 240 men and women of the present crew. It is in the tireless and unending effort of every technician, operator, engineer, and supporting crewmember to ensure COLE remains not a museum dedicated to a tragedy, but first and foremost a highly capable and successful war-fighting Destroyer. It is a Logistics Specialist, a Fire Controlman, and a Deck Seaman in a man-lift at 1930, working hard and without complaint to preserve the side of the ship because they care. It’s the Main Propulsion Assistant, a Corpsman, and a Career Counselor teaming up to replace a broken bridge window, because it has to get done and they were willing to help. It is an all hands fresh water wash down that you might mistake for a block party, because everyone is smiling and happy to do their part. It is the everyday commitment to the highest standard and finest effort.
We have the appropriate material reminders of this ship’s history; if you get a chance to take a tour aboard and you’ll see them. But if you look a little harder, you’ll see what truly makes COLE special; it’s what those memorials stand for. The best memorial to the men and women who faced terror a decade ago on the 12th of October is the pride and professionalism of every member of the crew, past and present. COLE Sailors know who walked these passageways before them; just as then, today every one a Determined Warrior. Proud. Capable. Ready.