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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

Harrisonville Native serves aboard “Mighty Cole” during Remembrance Ceremony

by Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach
25 September 2020
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Catron, a native of Harrisonville, Missouri, is serving aboard the USS Cole.
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Catron, a native of Harrisonville, Missouri, is serving aboard the USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, that was bombed by a suicide attack while being refueled in Yemen’s Aden harbor, Oct. 12, 2000. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Darien Kenney, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Public Affairs)
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Catron, a native of Harrisonville, Missouri, is serving aboard the USS Cole.
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Catron
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Catron, a native of Harrisonville, Missouri, is serving aboard the USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, that was bombed by a suicide attack while being refueled in Yemen’s Aden harbor, Oct. 12, 2000. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Darien Kenney, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Public Affairs)
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Darien Kenney
VIRIN: 200910-N-NU634-0003
A remembrance ceremony will be conducted at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, on Oct. 12, commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. The ceremony will honor the 17 shipmates who lost their lives in service to their country. 

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Catron, a 2006 Harrisonville High School graduate and native of Harrisonville, Missouri, is serving aboard USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, that was bombed by a suicide attack while being refueled in Yemen’s Aden harbor.  

The attack was attributed to al-Qaeda suicide bombers, who sailed a small boat near the destroyer and detonated explosive charges. The blast created a hole in the port side of the ship about 40 feet (12 m) in diameter, killing 17 crew members and injuring 37. Sailors courageously fought fires and flooding for the following 96 hours to keep the ship afloat.

“My family remembered the Cole attack, so I was both excited and nervous when I received my orders,” said Catron. “I didn’t take it lightly and wanted to really learn my role. It was a humbling experience knowing that sailors died on board fighting to save the ship.”

During the memorial ceremony, a 21-gun salute will be fired and taps played to honor and celebrate the fallen service members. A ceremonial wreath, made by Cole Sailors, will be laid off the port side of the ship in memory of the Cole Heroes. The ceremony will end with a bell toll and reading of the names of the 17 heroes whose lives were sacrificed.

A number of Gold Star families will also be on hand, to offer support and pay tribute to the Cole families, and to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter, husband or wife.

"Serving on board Cole is an honor and a privilege,” said Cmdr. Ted Pledger, commanding officer of USS Cole. “Today's Determined Warriors work hard to carry on the inspiring legacy of those who went before us."

Aboard USS Cole, there is the “Hall of Heroes” in a passageway along the mess line leading to a memorial listing the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 17 stars are embedded in the blue-speckled deck, representing the Sailors who walked that hallway over 20 years ago.

“The Hall of Heroes is the epicenter of the ship,” said Catron. “There are lots of emotions that come up knowing that these were our shipmates. Every day when I walk through the Hall of Heroes, I make sure I don’t step on the stars honoring my shipmates. There are so many memories, such as plaques and murals, in honor of their legacy.”

Catron is a damage controlman responsible for providing quality training in all aspects of damage control and response to flooding, fires, structural damage and toxic gases. Additionally, Catron is in charge of 12 sailors who ensure all damage control equipment is mission-ready at all times. 

Cole is named in honor of Marine sergeant Darrell S. Cole, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle for Iwo Jima in February 1945. 

Cole’s motto, ”Glory is the Reward of Valor,” underscores the spirit of Sgt. Cole for his extraordinary heroism, his unwavering loyalty to his country and his bravery in facing adversity without fear. His valor and sacrifices is a direct representation of the 17 sailors who lost their lives and the crew for their heroic actions to save the ship on that fateful day 20 years ago, and the resolve and warfighting attitude the “Mighty Cole” continues to embrace. 

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