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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

Survivor, Sailor, Mother Inspires Daughters To Follow In Her Footsteps

by Gregory White, Navy Recruiting Command
16 March 2020

Quartermaster 3rd Class Malaysia McKnight and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Qunisha Lytch pose for a photo.
Quartermaster 3rd Class Malaysia McKnight and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Qunisha Lytch pose for a photo. (U.S. Navy photo/ Released)
Quartermaster 3rd Class Malaysia McKnight and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Qunisha Lytch pose for a photo.
Survivor, Sailor, Mother Inspires Daughters To Follow In Her Footsteps
Quartermaster 3rd Class Malaysia McKnight and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Qunisha Lytch pose for a photo. (U.S. Navy photo/ Released)
Photo By: Gregory White
VIRIN: 200313-N-MW275-971
Oct. 12, 2000 is a day that will live in infamy for American Sailors who served and are serving aboard the USS Cole. Seventeen Sailors lost their lives that day and 38 were wounded when suicide terrorists exploded a small boat next to the destroyer off the coast of Yemen.

For Petty Officer 2nd Class Malaysia McKnight, a quartermaster in the U.S. Navy, and her sister, Petty Officer 2nd Class Qunisha Lytch, a fire controlman, the attack struck close to home.

“I was about 4 years old and my sister was 7 when the Cole was struck,” said McKnight. “We were living with my grandmother at the time, and like many grandmothers, mine watched the news religiously.”

The day the Cole was struck McKnight and her sister were playing in the living room at their grandmother’s house. McKnight remembers it all too well.

“I heard my sister say ‘that’s mommy’s ship,’” said McKnight. “We knew it was hers because she used to take us onboard to tour it and meet people she worked with. My grandmother wasn’t so sure but we were all really nervous because we hadn’t heard anything from my mom for days. It was really shocking and terrifying to see that big gaping hole in the side of the ship and the words ‘breaking news’ on the TV screen.”

Turned out that Lytch was right. It was their mother’s ship. Tayinikia Campbell, McKnight’s mother, served as a corpsman on the Cole. Her office was right in the blast zone. Yet, she is among the survivors.

“Thankfully, my mother wasn’t in her office at the time of the attack because we might not have her here today if she was,” said McKnight.

Campbell, who is now medically retired, is just as grateful, and she could not be more proud of her daughters, who are both serving honorably in her footsteps.

In spite of knowing about the attack, feeling that fear, and seeing their mother go through surgery, McKnight and Lytch received enough positive insight from Campbell to shape their decisions to join.

“She always talked really positively about the Navy, and although she experienced that (Cole attack) and now suffers PTSD she still smiles and is super happy when she talks about her life in the Navy,” said McKnight. “She says ‘oh I miss that,’ or ‘I wish I could do that.’ That’s a big reason for me joining. My sister and I have always thought it would be cool to join and kind of let our mom relive the good stuff through us. Sure, there may come a time when your life is at risk but I just think if my mom can do this I can do it too.”

McKnight is a Raleigh native who spent a year and a half recruiting out of Naval Recruiting Station Gastonia. Lytch is stationed in Norfolk. The two of them have plans to join their mother at the USS Cole memorial for the 20th anniversary of that dreadful attack later this year.

“Whenever we reenlist we’ll do it at the memorial of the USS Cole for our mother,” said McKnight. “And we go to all the big milestone anniversaries. It feels good that my sister and I are serving together in honor of our mom.”


Categories:

USS Cole (DDG 67)
 
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