It has been 8½ years since the appalling terrorist attack on the USS Cole and its crew in the Middle East. It came 11 months before a direct attack on America’s mainland in 2001 on September 11th. However, a Florida coastal town has not forgotten its native son. This Memorial Day, in Vero Beach, Florida, Petty Officer 2nd Class, Ronald Scott Owens, will be remembered with a wreath laying at the Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary.
The Naval guided missile destroyer USS Cole, known as ‘The Determined Warrior’ was attacked by suicide terrorists on Thursday, October 12, 2000. A small boat with highly powerful explosives pulled up alongside the destroyer while it was docked for refueling at the Yemeni port city of Aden near the Persian Gulf. The explosives hit the hull of the ship, leaving a 40 x 60 foot hole. The blast came near the ship’s gallery as sailors were there for lunch.
The ship had a crew of about 315 members, of which 17 sailors died that Thursday morning. Another 39 crew members were injured, several severely.
Ronald Scott Owens, born in Vero Beach in 1975 and a 1994 Vero Beach High School graduate paid the final sacrifice, along with 16 of his fellow crew members. This young man was married to Jaime Scott, a childhood sweetheart and they had a 4-year-old daughter named Isabella. Ronald had been in the U.S. Navy since 1998 and with the USS Cole on its overseas tour since August 8, 2000. Ronald served on board as an Electronics Warfare Technician Third Class.
He was expected back home on shore leave in February 2001. Ronald had plans to work towards an officer’s commission in the Navy. His future plans after his naval service was to attend college and study computer science. The atrocious attack on the USS Cole and its crew on October 12th put an end to his promising future.
This happy-go-lucky young man made friends easily. He always tried to help anyone in need. Back in his home community of Indian River County, he was a volunteer with the fire and rescue teams. A posthumously Purple Heart was awarded to Seaman Owens for his service and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Ronald died just before his 25th birthday of October 31st, Halloween.
The destroyer, USS Cole, along with Seaman Owens, had also come into service with the U. S. Navy after the ship was built and commissioned in June 1996 in Port Everglades, Florida. Norfolk, Virginia served as the ship’s home base.
After the October 2000 attack the ship was hauled back to the United States for repairs. One special area remodeled in the repair work was the hallway leading to the ship’s dining hall. On the hall floor was now embedded with 17 gold stars, representing those who died while in service to their country aboard the USS Cole. It took fourteen months to complete repairs, then the USS Cole and a new crew set sail again in 2003 for the Middle East.
The citizens of Vero Beach have not forgotten Ronald Scott Owens and they welcome this opportunity to remind the world of their native son’s sacrifice during its Memorial Day service on Monday, May 25, 2009. This special ceremony will be conducted by the Veterans Council of Indian River County at 10 a.m.