As I was researching the background to this case, it occurred to me that this attack must have triggered a switch in the mentality of our armed forces. America has always been seen as a dynamic military world power; our nation would be called in and the battles would ensue, almost all of which ended in our victory. We, America, were the party that always went to the battlefield, rather than the party having to defend an attack on the home front.
The USS Cole bombing was one of the most shocking times that our military has been directly targeted and attacked successfully. September 11 brought the realization that American citizens may have a risk on our own soil, but the USS Cole attack brought the realization that our military is now at a heightened risk when they are abroad.
The USS Cole bombing occurred on October 12, 2000 in Yemen. The Cole was fueling when the sailors saw a small boat approaching, the attackers were waving to the soldiers as the boat pulled up next to the Cole, and subsequently exploded from the hundreds of pounds of explosives that were packed into the tiny fishing vessel.
That attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 more. It tore a 40 by 40 foot hole into the side of this $1 billion ship. Al Qaeda has hailed the attack on the USS Cole as one of its greatest military strikes. Just 11 months before 9/11, we just started to experience war on the home front unlike any we had seen before.
I am especially drawn to this case. When I worked in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate enough to experience one of the most touching and impactful moments of my entire life.
When our service men and women return from battle, they are typically welcomed home with family members holding signs, arms wide with hugs, a feeling of honor, pride and respect is ever present. However, many of our men and women who are deployed are unable to return with the rest of their troop and experience the overwhelming welcome because they were injured and too ill or hurt to travel back with the rest of their unit. These men and women are honored at the Pentagon with a Wounded Warrior march.
I can still remember the feelings and emotions that came over me when I watched these men and women experience their long, overdue welcome home in the halls of the Pentagon. Every single person employed at the Pentagon, from the janitor to the highest ranking general, lined the hallways and clapped and cheered for these heroes. Some were outwardly hurt, missing limbs, in wheelchairs, burns, but some of the individuals’ wounds were not accessible to the naked eye. I have never felt such pride, respect, and admiration for our armed forces as I did during that ceremony. This moment has impacted me tremendously and to this day I will always try to thank a service man or woman for the enormous sacrifice that they have made for this Nation, and as a result, for me.
It is for this reason that I am drawn to the USS Cole case. Our men and women on that battleship had no idea that their safety would be put at risk by suicide bombers. The bomb hit right outside the mess hall, which led to the high number of lives lost. It took 14 months and $250 million to repair the damage that this one, tiny fishing boat did to the USS Cole, one of the most technologically advanced military vessels in the world.