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25 years later: Gone but never forgotten

  • Published
  • By Airman Colleen Coulthard
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Today, we gather--Airmen, family and friends--in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the Khobar Towers bombing in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.

The wing’s emblem, the flaming sword, stands at the center of the memorial, where an inscription reads: "This monument is dedicated to the brave warriors who were killed by a terrorist bomb at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, on June 25, 1996. They made the ultimate sacrifice as guardians of this grateful nation. We shall never forget them." 

When the 5,000 pounds of explosives detonated in front of the Khobar Towers housing complex, 19 Airmen were killed and more than 400 U.S. and international military and civilians were injured. Twelve of those who died were Nomads. Each year, the 33rd Fighter Wing honors the fallen with a memorial ceremony.

This year's memorial included guest speakers, the traditional wreath-laying, recitation of names, playing of “Taps,” a missing man formation flyover, and a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace. The recitation of names was carried out by 19 current Airmen from the 33rd FW who are chosen to stand on behalf of the fallen, deliver the fallen member’s name, and render a salute.

During the memorial, Col. Jon Wheeler, 33rd FW commander, Gen. (ret) Charles Horner, and Col. (ret) Doug Cochran, former 58th Fighter Squadron commander, addressed friends and families of the fallen, survivors, Nomads past and present, and other guests in attendance. 

“I’d like to thank you for the trust you have bestowed upon the 33rd FW to pay tribute to our heroes for the past quarter of a century,” said Wheeler.

Cochran expressed his appreciation to the family members for their loved ones’ honorable and faithful service to the country.

“While heroic stories of sacrifice or gratitude on behalf of our nation for the loss of your loved one may seem insufficient to the measure of emotional consequences you’ve endured, please know your loved one’s sacrifice has allowed our country to be what it is today, a place of freedom,” said Cochran.

Following the guest speakers, Cochran and Chief Master Sgt. William Harper, a survivor of the Khobar Towers bombing and current 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent, placed the wreath in front of the memorial site, which became the center point for the recitation of names and salute to the fallen.

After a moment of silence, three F-15C Eagles and one F-15E Strike Eagle from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, performed a missing man formation flyover as the familiar notes of “Taps” played.

The ceremony concluded with a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by Lt. Col. (ret) Les Matheson and the benediction led by Chaplain Matt Spencer.


Names and short biographies of the fallen below.


58th Fighter Squadron: 

Master Sgt. Kendall K. Kitson, Jr, Yukon, Oklahoma:

K.K. had a down-to-earth sense of humor and always kept his cool as production superintendent, even when the jets were not cooperating. Enjoyed boating and fishing and volleyball with the troops in Saudi.

Tech. Sgt. Daniel B. Cafourek, Watertown, South Dakota:

From a close friend: “The consummate professional, indisputably recognized as the squadron's finest crew chief.” Personally, Cafourek had one of the largest hearts and strongest commitments to friendships; his stoic demeanor was shed when carousing with friends.

Staff Sgt. Millard D. Campbell, Angelton, Texas:

He was the right hand of all supervisors. He made sure all operations specialists assigned to him were well taken care of. Made sure all the younger airmen had somewhere to go during the holidays.

Senior Airman Earl F. Cartrette, Jr., Sellersbug, Indiana:

Cartrette enjoyed auto racing and spent time rebuilding a Chevy Nova. His father had owned this car and then sold it before he passed away in 1992; JR bought it back and was rebuilding it as a tribute to him. 

Airman 1st Class Brent E. Mathaler, Cambridge, Minnesota:

Great attitude: polite; instrumental in keeping spirits high. At shift change, Brent would enthusiastically yell to his comrades: "Good morning, mid shift." Devoted time teaching Sunday School class to children at the Eglin Base chapel.

Airman 1st Class Brian W. McVeigh, Debary, Florida:

Had a very quiet personality. He was a crew chief, and a big fan of auto racing.

Airman 1st Class Joseph E. Rimkus, Madison, Illinois

Enjoyed playing basketball. Always volunteered for additional duties and never complained. Very respectful and well mannered. 

Airman 1st Class Joshua E. Woody, Corning California

Selfless worker with an outgoing personality. He was upbeat, spirited, and always had a smile on his face. Weapons load crew members.


60th Fighter Squadron: 

Tech. Sgt. Patrick P. Fennig, Greendale, Wisconsin

Loved the Air Force, traveling, shooting, scuba diving, and spear fishing. Was well traveled, having served in 7 assignments during 16 years of service.


33rd Operations Support Squadron:

Airman 1st Class Peter J. Morgera, Stratham, New Hampshire:

Morgera was a reliable and hard-working professional. He enjoyed playing darts, shooting pool, and going to the beach. He was a very caring individual-never without a smile.


33rd Logistics Group: 

Tech. Sgt. Thanh V. (Gus) Nguyen, Panama City, Florida

Volunteered many hours in the community helping victims of Hurricane Opal. Directly responsible for his wing being recognized as having the most productive Gold Flag program in Air Combat Command.


33rd Maintenance Squadron: 

Senior Airman Jeremy A. Taylor, Rosehill, Kansas

Very close to his family, talked to them on the phone every Sunday. An outgoing personality who enjoyed cookouts with his fellow mechanics.


Patrick Air Force Base:

Capt. Christopher Adams, Massapaque Park, New York 

Was called "Chris" by his friends. He had two loves in his life: his best friend and fiance Air Force Capt. Karen Oullette and their new 32-foot cabin cruiser, "Diamond Ring.” The captain's peers said his concern was always his people. “That was his job as an officer.”

Capt. Leland Timothy Haun, Fresno County, California

Anyone who didnt know him would describe him as a quiet person, but he was very well rounded, according to his peers, who described him as a jokester, artist, comedian, ferocious reader of books, but first and foremost, a family man

Master Sgt. Michael Heiser, Palm Coast, Florida 

Joined the 71st Rescue Squadron in December 1995 as an airborne communications system operator and C-Flight superintendent. He hadn't been at the squadron long before he went away to the HC-130 combat rescue school at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. 

Staff Sgt. Kevin Johnson, Shreveport, Louisiana

Was referred to simply as “K.J.” None of his fellow engineers remember why or how he got his nickname, but his friend, Tech. Sgt. Bruce Soto, said K.J. really enjoyed the moniker. His real passion was flying.

Airman 1st Class Justin Wood, Modesto, California

He was the first active duty loadmaster to go from civilian to fully qualified loadmaster, a job normally reserved for experienced personnel. Affectionately referred to by other loadmasters as “Junior” because he was the youngest member of the squadron.


Offutt AFB:

Staff Sgt. Ronald King, Battle Creek, Michigan 

In 1985, after nine successful years as a reprographics technician, he cross-trained into the contracting career field. King’s love of country, pursuit of excellence, and outstanding professionalism reflect great credit on himself, his family, his squadron, and the Air Force.


Wright-Patterson Air Force Base:

Airman 1st Class Christopher Lester, Wyoming County, West Virginia

He was a top-notch airman, dedicated to learning the most he could in his career. He enjoyed softball, basketball, weightlifting, as well as riding motor-cycles with members of his shop.

More information can be found about the victims and the story at this link