(Editor’s note: The following was written by Rick Burke with the Navy Office of Community Outreach.)
NORFOLK – A remembrance ceremony was conducted on Monday, Oct. 12, at Naval Station Norfolk, commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. The ceremony honored the 17 shipmates, including Lee-Davis High School graduate Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, who were killed in the attack and honor those crewmembers that fought to save the ship.
Clodfelter served as a hull maintenance technician 2nd class. A native of Aurora, Colorado, he was one of the 17 sailors killed serving aboard USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer with the nickname “Determined Warrior,” that was bombed in 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.
Clodfelter was born on Dec. 26, 1978, to John and Gloria Clodfelter, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 25, 1997.
Clodfelter attended Basic Training and Hull Maintenance Technician “A” and “C” schools in Great Lakes, Illinois, and reported to USS Cole (DDG 67) on March 27, 1998.
During the ceremony, a 21-gun salute was fired and taps played to honor and celebrate the fallen service members. A ceremonial wreath, made by Cole Sailors, was dedicated on the port side of the ship in memory of the Cole Heroes. The ceremony ended with a tolling of a bell and reading of the names of the 17 heroes whose lives were killed.
“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 served 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. Seventeen stars are embedded in the blue-speckled deck, representing the sailors who walked that passageway over 20 years ago.
Clodfelter was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation and the rank of Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class. He held the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Cole is named in honor of Marine Sgt. 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 are a direct representation of the 17 sailors who were killed 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 Determined Warrior continues to embrace.