Seventeen Years Later

 

 

 

 

June 25th, 2013 marked the seventeenth anniversary of the Khobar Towers Bombing. The Nineteen American Heroes were remembered with various memorial services throughout the country. Eglin Air Force Base and Patrick Air Force Base held Memorial Services on the 25th.

 

Khobar Towers Memorial Service Honors Fallen

 

Updated: Thu 12:53 PM, Jun 27, 2013

 

 

On June 25, 1996, nineteen airmen from Eglin Air Force base were killed during a terrorist bombing in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. A huge truck-bomb was detonated next to an eight story building housing us military personnel. Airman Brian Henson - who was a member of the 33rd fighter wing - was stationed in nearby Dhahran.

"Seeing the wounded troops. Going to see the young kids cause they were twenty years old. Twenty, twenty year old airmen. And we had to go back and they were medevac’d out so we had to make sure they were all taken care of" said Henson.

Tuesday, servicemen and women along with families of the fallen visited the Eglin Air Force Base memorial on the anniversary of the attack to remember those lost.

"It's an honor really. And the thing is we cannot forget what happened and i think that because Eglin and Patrick Air Force Base remember each year then our American community won't forget. And that's why we come every year so we won't forget" said Widow Shyrl Johnson.

Henson says it's important to remember how strong America is even when tragedy strikes.

"It's an experience of American perseverance. It's an experience of a unit coming together in time of need. Never was it an experience that we were beaten or hurt cause we weren't. We were certainly affected but we were not hurt" said Henson.
Today's ceremony ended with a moment of silence and a 21 gun salute.

 

Remembering Khobar Towers 

DEVON RAVINE / Daily News
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 17:25 PM.

EGLIN AFB — Empty military boots and helmets marked the space where the fallen airmen might have stood.

They might have straightened their spines, pulled back their shoulders and raised their arms in rigid salute as the honor guard marched by carrying the American flag through the heavy, humid air.

But those airmen are gone, lost in a terrorist bombing at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996.

On Tuesday, dozens of people gathered at a memorial honoring the 19 American men killed in the attack, showing that although gone, they are not forgotten.

See photos of the ceremony. >>

Twelve of the airmen were members of what is now the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin. Their faces are etched into the memorial’s stone wall. A sword, eternally engulfed in flames, stands tall out of a rock in front of the wall, which also shows the names of the seven airmen from Patrick Air Force Base who were killed.

“It has been 17 years since that tragic day,” Col. Todd Canterbury, current commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, said during the ceremony. “Despite the years, the flame of remembrance we see here continues to burn bright, signifying their service still matters.”

About 15 family members of those killed in the attack attended the remembrance.

Airman 1st Class Joseph Rimkus, 22, died after the building he was in collapsed in the blast. His younger brother, James Ryan Rimkus, who was 20 at the time, attended the ceremony for the first time in his life, although he lives nearby in Valparaiso.

“I really haven’t properly grieved yet,” he said. “This is so hard. I feel him right here, in my chest.”

James Rimkus had joined the Navy and was in boot camp when he received word that his brother had decided to join the Air Force. They enlisted two weeks apart.

His brother’s death tore him apart. He left the Navy shortly after and struggled for many years to deal with the loss.

“I leaned on him more than I thought I did, until he died and I realized just how much,” he said.

Shyrl Johnson traveled to the memorial from Central Florida to honor her late husband, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Johnson, who left behind two sons – one 2 months old and the other 4 years old.

His sons, now grown, sat at their mother’s side.

“To think of this day every year is hard,” she said. “But when you are surrounded by people who haven’t forgotten, that makes it a little better.”

The airmen were deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch, which was tasked with patrolling the no-fly zone over Iraq after the Gulf War.

On the evening of the attack, a large truck drove as close as it could to one of the compound’s buildings and detonated in a huge explosion.

Across the base, Lt. Col. Brian Henson, a maintenance officer on his first deployment, was working the late shift on the flight line.

He saw what he thought was lightning and heard what sounded like thunder.

“How is there a thunderstorm in the middle of the desert?” he thought.

Then he realized they’d been attacked.

They wanted to run to the building to find their friends, their brothers, to dig through the rubble.

But they had to stay put. There was no one else to do their job.

“This is it,” he said they thought at the time. “This is all we have.”

He said there was no time for sadness, for fear, for shock. They kicked into gear, preparing the flight line and the jets for what was next.

“We could have been raging, but we knew this is a part of the job, this is the risk we take,” Henson said. “Our job is to maintain and persevere.”

The rest of the airmen came to them; they didn’t know where else to go. They set up a makeshift barracks in the flight hangar.

He remembers visiting with the wounded.

“These poor 23-year-old kids, cut to pieces, glass everywhere,” he said. “I will never forget seeing that, they were just asking about everyone else, their roommate, their friends.”

Many returned to work.

“We were hurt, but not broken,” Henson said.

It wasn’t until days later when he got off the plane at Eglin that he was able to let down the strong shell he’d been carrying since the attack.

“That was tough,” he said.

Hundreds of people were on the flight line to greet them, the last of the airmen to return after the bombing.

“To see the outpour of welcoming, that’s when I broke down,” Henson said.

Although it was his first deployment, he said the attacks did not deter him from his service.

“I signed up to be a part of something through thick and thin,” he said.

Henson was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s ceremony. He has just been stationed again at Eglin for the first time in more than a decade. He serves as program manager for the B61 nuclear weapon modernization program.

He said he was honored to be a part of the ceremony, and remembers well what the families of the fallen went through in the days immediately following the attack.

“I want them to know that that day is never going to be forgotten and the faces that they see on these stones were never lost to the 33rd.” 

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 or lreinlie@nwfdailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn

 

 

Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, family and survivors gathered to remember airmen who died 17 years ago.

 

File photo shows the Memorial Flag Plaza at Patrick Air Force Base during last year's ceremony.

File photo shows the Memorial Flag Plaza at Patrick Air Force Base during last year's ceremony. / File photo

Written by

R. Norman Moody

FLORIDA TODAY

 

Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, family and survivors gathered to remember airmen who died 17 years ago in a terrorist bombing at an air base in Saudi Arabia.

The wing hosted the Khobar Towers Memorial Ceremony this morning at the Memorial Flag Plaza at Patrick Air Force Base.

“We lost five members of our ‘rescue family’ on 25 Jun 1996,” said Col. Jeffrey Macrander, commander of the 920th Rescue Wing. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families, friends and comrades. They are not forgotten.”

After a brief ceremony a wreath was laid at the base of the Khobar Towers Memorial at the Memorial Flag Plaza at Patrick.

Five rescue airmen, who were stationed at Patrick and 14 other airmen were killed in the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia.

The blast from a tanker truck parked just outside the perimeter fence of the base ripped away the concrete wall and left a crater 30 feet deep at night while 2,000 U.S. servicemen and women were in Khobar Towers, a high-rise dormitory at the Abdul Aziz Air Base.

In addition to the 19 U.S. service members and one Saudi killed, 372 people of several nationalities were wounded. Individuals identified as members of Hezbollah Al-Hijaz exploded the fuel truck near an eight-story building.

Several of those who were wounded that day are current members of the 920th Rescue Wing.

The fallen that were stationed at Patrick are:

Master Sgt. Michael G. Heiser, Palm Coast.
Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Johnson, Shreveport, La.
AIC Justin R. Wood, Modesto, Calif.
Capt. Christopher J. Adams, Massapequa Park, N.Y
Capt. Leland T. Haun, Clovis, Calif.