Hundreds of sailors and Marines stood in long lines on both sides of a road at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, in a silent and moving tribute Sunday as the parents of slain Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson drove onto the base.
Benjamin and Sheila Watson posted a 10-minute Facebook video of their slow ride past the saluting service members. The only sounds on the video are Sheila Watson's sobs. At one point, Benjamin Watson, at the wheel, reaches across to hold his wife's hand.
Watson, 23, of Enterprise, Alabama, a recent Naval Academy graduate and pilot in training; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia, were killed Sunday in a shooting rampage at the base.
Eight others were wounded or injured in the incident early last Friday in a classroom building at the base. The FBI has identified Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, who was in training at Pensacola, as the shooter.
He was shot to death by sheriff's deputies who responded to the scene, according to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.
Watson's family said he was shot five times as he tried to take down the perpetrator; he died later of his wounds at Baptist Hospital.
In a Facebook posting, his brother, Adam Watson, said, "After being shot multiple times, he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was, and those details were invaluable" in ending the incident.
In a statement Sunday, Capt. Timothy Kinsella, the base commander, said all three of the fallen sailors acted heroically in trying to stop the shooter.
"When confronted, they didn't run from danger, they ran toward it and saved lives," he said. "If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse."
At a news conference Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said of the three sailors, "What you saw was people running to the danger to try to save others."
At the same news conference, Rachel Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Jacksonville, Florida, field office, said the investigation is proceeding on the assumption that the incident was an act of terrorism.
"Our main goal right now is to confirm whether he acted alone or was he a part of a larger network?" she said.
The traditional tribute to the three sailors posted on the Navy's website said: "Fair winds and following seas, shipmates. We have the watch."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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