MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. — Chaplains rushed to comfort families today at the home base of the Navy frigate Stark as word spread of the missile attack on the ship in the Persian Gulf that killed at least 28 sailors.
"Everybody feels like they've received an unexpected punch in the stomach," said Chaplain Bill Perry, who visited the families of several Stark crewmen overnight and talked to sailors at the base. "We hurt for them because they're part of the Navy community."
Perry and 18 or so other chaplains at the base planned to visit throughout the day with some of the 85 families of the ship's crewmen in the Jacksonville area to calm their anxiety while waiting for authorities to officially notify relatives of deaths and injuries.
Capt. John Mitchell, commander of the base, said a team of 10 doctors, psychologists and other professionals was being flown to Mayport from Portsmouth, Va., to help families deal with the crisis.
"You hurt inside for people you don't know. . . . You hurt with them and you keep them in your prayers," Perry, a chaplain for 18 years, said at a news conference on this north Florida base on the Atlantic coast.