USS Cole families mark 12 years while trial for terrorist drags on

Posted at 7:18 PM, Oct 11, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-12 06:27:00-04

Norfolk, Va. - Before 9/11, there was 10/12--the day that Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda operatives rammed a boat full of explosives right into the hull of the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors.

“I think back over the 12 years, and it gets easier to deal with the loss, but it never goes away,” said Mona Gunn, the mother of Cherone Gunn, one of the victims who grew up right here in Hampton Roads.

Friday, on the 12th anniversary of his death, the Gunn family will be heading to Arlington National Cemetery where Cherone is buried--but the memorial will be a bit different this year.

“They are going to lay the wreaths at the three graves up at Arlington, and then they want the families to go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” said Lou Gunn, Cherone’s father.

One of the most visited memorials at Arlington, it will host the Cole anniversary ceremony.

Cemetery officials say it’s to get more of the public to take part in honoring the fallen.

“More people are being made aware of what happened at the Cole and it is still in the memories of everybody affected,” said Gunn.

Still, it’s hard to move forward, while dealing with the long and drawn out trials of the terrorists accused of masterminding the Cole attack.

“I’m not satisfied with the legal process and pace that it’s going,” said Gunn.

Gunn will be traveling to Guantanamo Bay on behalf of the Cole families in two weeks, for yet another hearing on the case against Abd-al Rahim al-Nashiri.

Prosecutors are now trying to force him to show up at his own trial.

As it stands, al-Nashiri has the right to refuse to be present, and stay in his jail cell.

“I just hope the government has him there to face what he has done,” said Gunn. “They are still doing preliminary matters, so it will probably be years before we even have a trial. 12 years since the bombing, and we are still in the preliminary stages.”

The Gunns will try to push all that out of their minds Friday when they are back in front of Cherone's grave.

“We will be thinking about that day and how our lives changed forever,” said Gunn. “These 17 sailors gave their lives so we could be free in this country.”