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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

History Behind the USS Cole Memorial

by Naval Station Norfolk Public Affairs Office
24 September 2020

SLIDESHOW | 3 images | USS Cole Memorial Ceremony 151012-N-WJ261-067 NORFOLK (Oct. 12, 2015) Rear Adm. Christopher W. Grady, Cmdr. James Quaresimo and Command Master Chief Michael Fisher carry a wreath at the USS Cole Memorial during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. This ceremony commemorates the 15-year anniversary of the Oct.12, 2000 terrorist attack on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Donnelly/Released)
Exactly one year after and with a promise to never forget, the U.S. Navy dedicated the USS Cole monument to honor and remember the 17 Sailors killed in the tragic bombing that took place to the Norfolk-based destroyer in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000. 

During the dedication at Naval Station (NS) Norfolk in 2001, more than 1,000 crew members and relatives gathered at the memorial that overlooks Willoughby Bay where ships leaving and returning to NS Norfolk pass by.  

The memorial consists of three sections. The main plaza of the memorial contains three 10-foot monoliths that represent the three colors of the American flag. Encircling the monoliths are 17 low level markers that represent the victims of the bombing. Three plaques are placed are the monument.  The two outside pillars contain the names of the Sailors killed during the bombing and the center pillar contains the USS Cole emblem and an inscription that reads “In lasting tribute to their Honor, Courage and Commitment.” 

Along the path to the memorial are 28 pine trees that represent the 17 victims and the 11 children who lost their parent during the bombing. Also along the path is a plaque that marks the location of the USS Cole Memorial Tree that was planted by the Hampton Roads Council of the Navy League during the dedication ceremony.  The plaque reads “You will forever be in our thoughts, our memories never forgotten, you will live in our hearts, and may this tree remind every ship rolling by, of your sacrifice.” At the end of the path is a raised plaque that details the events of the bombing and amplifies the heroic efforts to save ship and their shipmates.  Part of the inscriptions reads “As a permanent symbol of that strength and resolve, steel from the ships damaged hull is forged into this plaque. The crew of the USS Cole personified honor, courage and commitment.”

"The USS Cole Memorial is a beautiful tribute to the honor, courage and commitment displayed by the determined warriors on Oct. 12, 2000,” said Cmdr. Edward Pledger, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). “Every time we sail past the memorial when departing and returning to Norfolk, we pay our respects to the Cole heroes by rendering honors to the memorial.”

The monument was designed by John Blackburn, a landscape architect with the Navy's worldwide engineering corps. Blackburn took input from USS Cole crew members while developing his design. Donations through the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society paid for the $143,000 project. 

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the USS Cole bombing, the memorial stands as a solemn reminder of the 17 Sailors who lost their lives, those injured and the all those impacted by the events of that tragic day. 


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