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THE NATION

Renewed Destroyer Cole Gets Heroic Welcome Back to Duty

April 20, 2002|From Associated Press

PASCAGOULA, Miss. — A patched and battle-ready guided missile destroyer Cole returned to duty with a flag-waving, horn-blasting send-off Friday, a year and a half after a terrorist bombing in Yemen blew a hole in its side and killed 17 sailors.

Hundreds of people cheered along the shore as the Cole, gleaming in the sunlight, set off from Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Ingalls Shipyard for its home port in Norfolk, Va.

The Cole returns to duty after 14 months of repairs and improvements. Seventeen stars were laid in the destroyer' hallway floor, one for each of the sailors killed in the blast Oct. 12, 2000.

The ship's 300 sailors, including about 40 who survived the attack, made their way aboard the Cole at dawn Friday at the same shipyard where it was built and christened in 1995.

Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network has been blamed by U.S. officials for both the Sept. 11 attacks and the Cole blast, carried out by terrorists who pulled an explosives-laden skiff alongside the destroyer.

Cmdr. Kevin Sweeney said he did not know where the vessel will be deployed after its return to Norfolk.

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