USS Cole Remembrance Ceremony
Pierside Ceremony and Wreath Dedication Norfolk, VA
Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 beginning at 10:15 am EST
Adm. Christopher W. Grady, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command
Retired Adm. Robert J. Natter, Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet/Fleet Forces Command
Cmdr. Edward Pledger, Commanding officer, USS Cole (DDG 67)
USS COLE DDG-67 “DETERMINED WARRIOR”
In the twenty years that have passed since the attack on the USS COLE (DDG 67) much has been written about the terrible event. No account reads more succinctly than what is written on the dedication plaque at the USS COLE Memorial at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia:
USS COLE DDG-67 “DETERMINED WARRIOR”
At 1118 on the morning of October 12, 2000, as USS COLE (DDG-67) was refueling in Aden Harbor, Yemen, suicide bombers detonated an explosive-laden boat directly against the port side of the ship. The resulting blast killed 17 sailors, wounded 37 others, and tore a hole forty feet by sixty feet in the ship’s hull. In the aftermath of the explosion, the crew of USS COLE fought tirelessly to free shipmates trapped by the twisted wreckage and limit flooding that threatened to sink their ship. The crew’s prompt actions to isolate damaged electrical systems and contain fuel oil ruptures prevented catastrophic fires that could have engulfed the ship and cost the lives of countless men and women. Skillful first aid and advanced medical treatment applied by the crew prevented additional death and eased the suffering of many others.
Drawing upon their Navy training and discipline, the crew heroically conducted more than 96 hours of sustained damage control in conditions of extreme heat and stress. Deprived of sleep, food and shelter, they vigilantly battled to preserve a secure perimeter and restore stability to engineering systems that were vital to the ship’s survival. As a permanent symbol of that strength and resolve, steel from the ship’s damaged hull is forged into this plaque. By their sacrifice and bravery in the face of daunting adversity, the crew of the USS COLE personified Honor, Courage and Commitment.
DEDICATED OCTOBER 12, 2001
Remembering Our Wisconsin Sailor
Wisconsin lost a sailor in that attack, EN2(SW) Marc Ian Nieto of Fond du Lac was in Engine Room 1 with four crewmembers when the terrorists exploded their bomb. They were killed instantly as were 13 other crewmembers in the mess deck, the chiefs’ mess, and the galley.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is honored to preserve the Marc Nieto Collection. Sharon Priepke, Marc’s “Ma”, donated his military effects in 2017. Included in the collection is Nieto's biography written by her.
While many of us can recall the number of lives lost in the attack, each of those sailors had a story. This biography and his photographs allow us to share more fully the story of Marc from the perspective of his military family.
The following words are taken from "A Young Life Cut Short" by Sharon Priepke, Marc Nieto's Mother
Marc couldn’t decide what he really wanted to do with his life. He had fallen behind in his classes at Goodrich High School. Then the military recruiters came to school. Marc wanted a college education, but I couldn’t afford it. He checked out what the Navy had to offer and realized he could be an engineman. He loved working as a mechanic, and he would be able to get a college education. We learned about the alternative program that would help Marc catch up with his class and graduate from high school on schedule. He and a friend joined the alternative learning program together and made plans to join the Navy.
His teacher, Bill Kuespert, said, “What I really remember is how hard he worked, how dedicated he was to getting done so he could get into the service. He kept his nose to the grindstone.”
Marc got mostly B’s that year in his classes, including History, English, Political Science and Consumer Law. He accomplished what he set out to do. He earned 7.75 credits his senior year, graduated with his class in June of 1994, and was ready to join the Navy. He worked for a short time at Quad Graphics to make some extra money.
On November 8, 1994, Marc enlisted in the Navy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On December 7, 1994, he went to Great Lakes (Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois) for training to be an engineman.
Marc got his A-School, which was right there at Great Lakes. That was great because he could come home almost every weekend unless he had duty. He would bring all his buddies home, and I would cook for them and we’d have a great time. They were very respectful and would always throw money on the table for groceries for all the food I would cook. They always came home hungry.
ENFN Marc Ian McKee* from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was assigned to the USS COLE (DDG-67) at Pascagoula, Mississippi, on November 26, 1995. He was with the newly-constructed Guided Missile Destroyer the first time she went underway on December 13, 1995. He didn't know it then, but he was going to be spending the rest of his life onboard this ship. They sailed out of Pascagoula on the 28th day of May 1996. His new home would now be in Norfolk, Virginia. From now on, there was no stopping him. The sky was the limit
My son, Jeffrey, a very dear friend, and I went to the commissioning of the ship on June 8, 1996, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We got there a few days early, and Marc couldn’t wait to show us around his ship. He was so proud of her. It seemed he already knew everything about her. He showed us the four enormous turbine engines that looked way too big to fit on the ship. To me, the ship looked huge.
The commissioning ceremony followed. I had never been to a Navy commissioning. They really put on a show. We were so proud of Marc, and I was so glad I could be there for him on this special day. He looked so sharp in his Navy white dress uniform. All the sailors looked sharp as they stood in formation on the deck of the ship. They put the ship into action (so to speak) by firing the guns, showing us everything that the ship could do. It left me in tears because at that point, you start to realize what the ship is. My son would be stationed on a battleship.
* Marc later changed his name to Nieto, which is his Father's surname.
It was February 1998, and Marc was headed out on his first tour to the Middle East. They would be part of the USS JOHN C. STENNIS Battle Group. He would be out for six months, monitoring merchant ships and patrolling the waterways.
On Tuesday, April 7, 1998, Marc sent another e-mail:
How Ya doing? Nothing much new going on out here. Got my package. Good, and yes I’m getting all of Elaine’s e-mails. Thank you for the letters and thanks for picking up the new magazine’s for me. I do appreciate it. A lot of new duties involved with Engine Room Operator. I’ll be in charge of 3 gas turbine (Jet Engines) in this space and all the equipment that operate and control them. Nothing else good out here that I can tell you, but I’m keeping good notes so I can fill you in whenever they allow me to. Well, Got to run. Got to go on watch.
Marc not only kept busy working on anything he could get his hands on, but he also kept the morale of the ship going with his sense of humor. It was a long six months, and they would get so bored and at times depressed. Marc would sneak up on his other crew members when they were in berthing and let out this scream that would wake the dead. Then he’d tell a joke and start laughing. It could be any joke. Marc knew a million of them. He’d have all the guys in stitches just in the way he would tell the joke and with this laugh he had that was hard to explain.
He was a comedian, pulling pranks, always telling jokes and trying to raise everyone’s spirits. One of the stories was about Marc’s birthday. They had a wooden board that they spanked the birthday boy with. The problem was that they couldn’t catch Marc. They said he was like a squirrel running through the ship. They had 40 guys after him and couldn’t find him. They finally locked him in the engine room two weeks later and had to crawl up into the pipes to catch him. They couldn’t get him down, so they all went up after him and took their turn. They really gave it to him. Marc said he was sore for a week.
Marc was a Chevy man.
Marc and Jeff had bought these Camaros. Jeff’s was a 1979, the same year he was born, and Marc’s was a 1980 turbo-charged. They found them in a magazine and had never seen them. The article stated that they were restored and in good condition. At this time, they were both sending money to this guy, sight unseen, to pay for these great deals…
Now for the rest of the story about these Camaros…The next morning we went to pick up the 1980 Camaro (in Michigan). It looked beautiful from the outside. The interior wasn’t touched. It looked really bad to me, but Marc was happy. We had the registration so we could drive it home. I drove my car, and Marc followed in the Camaro. We decided to signal each other by flashing the car lights if something went wrong. It wasn’t far down the road when Marc started flashing the car lights. The oil light came on. I had a quart of oil in my trunk, so we put it in. A little further down the road the lights came on again. He needed more oil. We stopped at a station and saw that oil was blowing out of the engine. We bought a case of oil because Marc didn’t have time to stop and have it fixed. He said we’d just keep checking the oil, maybe the seals were bad from the car sitting. We used almost the entire case of oil by the time we got to Wisconsin. Marc planned on taking the car back to Norfolk, so we had to get it in and, thank God, I had a good mechanic who knew the family and could rush it through. He said the man who sold the car to Marc obviously didn’t do engine work. We got the car running, and Marc took off and headed back (to Norfolk), loaded down with gear...
They were going out on a cruise, and before they left, Marc wanted to fix the transmission on his Camaro. He was doing it himself. Unfortunately, he loosened one too many screws and the transmission fell on Marc’s chest. No, he didn’t have it blocked up. He didn’t have time for that. He had to get it done before they went on the cruise, and time was short.
His cell phone was within his reach, so he called one of his shipmates and said, “Hey, get your ass over here now. I got this _______ transmission on my chest.”
His buddy got there, and they got Marc out from under the car. The buddy wanted to take Marc to the hospital because the transmission was imprinted on Marc’s chest, and he was having a hard time breathing.
Marc said, “No _______ way. I need to get this car running before we go out on the cruise. I don’t have time.” Needless to say, Marc was very sore for about six weeks, but he got the Camaro running. That was his priority at the time...
(After Marc’s death) When I talked to Marc’s shipmates, they would ask what happened to the car. You have to realize that the 1980 Camaro was Marc. That’s when I got the idea to have it restored and show it at car shows in memory of Marc and his 16 shipmates who had lost their lives on that horrible day.
By the way, it turned out beautifully and was well worth the wait. The salt water had really eaten away at it. It was hard to decide how far to go and what all to do. They ended up stripping it totally down and restoring it to the original. That’s what Marc would have wanted. We didn’t mess too much with the engine or transmission because Marc had worked on it, and it runs like a charm.
Then Marc met Jaimie. They were so in love and had been around the world and back together. They kept their relationship very professional while onboard the USS COLE. The officers never even knew they were an item, as one put it. Senior Chief Lorensen said that their relationship was virtually undetectable. When Marc was in charge of the fire drills, he would push Jaimie harder than the rest of the crew.
They had been together for about one year. They had their whole life planned out. Marc would be getting home in two weeks and would start a job with GE, installing generators around the world until Jaimie got out of the Navy. Then they would marry, and Marc would continue working for GE but stay in the States. They planned on building a log cabin in Wisconsin.
We were all blown away when the ship was bombed. I had expected it on his last tour, but for some reason, not this time. We were so wrapped up in his future plans, we never even thought about something like this happening.
(July 27, 2002) We then turned Marc’s ashes over to the ship and went down to Doc’s quarters for a little private time and prayer. Jaimie and Tony gave us a guided tour of the ship. It looked awesome. We took a lot of pictures. In the galley, they have 17 white stars on a blue spackle floor going down the mess line. At the end of the line, they have a wooden plaque taken from the memorial with the 17 fallen shipmates’ names. They have a pencil drawing of the faces of all the fallen shipmates in their uniforms up on top with the COLE below them in the ocean, and Sgt. Cole, the ship’s namesake is in the background. They took us down to Engine Room 1 where Marc had lost his life. I said a prayer for him. Looking at the COLE now, it’s hard to believe that she was that badly damaged. The USS COLE looks great.
The USS COLE shipped out the next morning. They performed the burial at sea on Saturday. I received a package containing the urn that Marc’s ashes been in. I let Jaimie keep the flag from the ceremony because that was our agreement.
Another quality I think of is his joy for life. There was never a dull moment with Marc around. He was always the life of the party, and could lighten up the most solemn of occasions. You always sensed when he entered a room because there was no one else who had his presence or was quite like him. With his crazy laugh that we will never forget, and his jokes that could bring you to tears, it was obvious that Marc had a zest for life.
- James Samman, Friend and Eulogist, November 18. 2000
Fair winds and following seas