Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stark Memories Linger 26 Years after Attack; 37 Sailors Killed by Iraqi Missiles Honored at Mayport

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stark Memories Linger 26 Years after Attack; 37 Sailors Killed by Iraqi Missiles Honored at Mayport

Article excerpt

Byline: William Browning

Chris Hallett, 58, stood in the shade beside the USS Stark Memorial on Friday remembering.

"I was just coming off shift, way back in the hangar," he said. "It was a normal night, everything was pretty quiet. The first one came in. Felt the ship rock. We thought we hit something. A few seconds later, the second hit. We knew something serious was happening. From there, we shifted into a whole new perspective."

Hallett was remembering the night 26 years ago when two Iraqi Exocet missiles struck the USS Stark, a frigate based out of Mayport Naval Station. As he finished his story, the emotion in his voice turned raw.

"For the next, basically, 19 hours straight it was a firefight," the former aviation electronic technician said. "It brought us all together back then and it still does today."

The Stark was on patrol in the Persian Gulf at the time. Thirty-seven sailors lost their lives in the surprise attack on May 17, 1987.

On Friday, more than 100 people came onto the Navy base at Mayport to remember them and honor their service during an annual memorial ceremony.

Retired Rear Adm. George Huchting was the keynote speaker. He retired from the Navy in 1999 after 36 years of service.

Huchting told the crowd they were gathered for a "memorial." His dictionary, he said, defined that word as, "anything meant to help people to remember some person or event."

Simply gathering, he said, marked the event.

"I would like to focus on the other aspect of that definition - the people involved," he said.

The men who lost their lives that day were shipmates and messmates. But, he said, they were also husbands with families; fathers who were mentors to little boys and little girls; sons; uncles; and brothers.

"Let's take a moment to reflect on the wonder and the beauty of the individuals we lost and how lucky, how lucky we were to have known him, had him in our lives, even if for a very short period of time," he said. …

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