Sunday, January 08, 2006

Anniversary Remembrance from Commanding Officer

Today marks one year since USS SAN FRANCISCO grounded and gives us reason to pause and remember our beloved shipmate, Cooter. We trusted, admired and loved him. After our accident, we did everything humanly possible to save him. Doc and the DCA provided non-stop medical treatment. His fellow A-Gangers innovatively devised a continuous oxygen supply from the ship’s oxygen banks. Other shipmates, some themselves who were seriously injured, took shifts to hold his hand and comfort his soul. The rest of us operated the ship – we fixed what we could, invented new procedures to re-align damaged systems, and determinedly drove the ship towards a rescue rendezvous. Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Seamen, Pilots, Airmen, Doctors, Corpsmen, supporting staff ashore, and countless others contributed to the rescue effort.

All the while, Cooter fought like the brave Sailor he was. Defying the odds, he lived far longer than expected for someone with his injuries. He peacefully left us the under the care of a Navy Doctor who had arrived aboard from a daring helicopter transfer just a few hours earlier. He then entered the realm of the Lord, where he currently awaits us all for our ultimate reunion.

To the whole Ashley family, you have shown the world the power of the true core values: faith, hope and love. While we grieved for our lost shipmate, your Christian hearts reached out and comforted us even though it was you who had lost a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin. You have allowed us to move beyond the suffering and find redemption in Joey’s sacrifice and your loving forgiveness. Your family and our crew have become as one.

To Cooter, we miss you buddy. We’ll never forget you. Although thinking of you today brings tears to my eyes, I thank God we had the chance to meet and become shipmates. The impact of your marvelous life will continue to be felt for years to come – just look at your incredible Guest Book! Rest in peace, brother.

CDR Kevin Mooney
(Bremerton, WA )