On June 25, 1996 the U.S. Air Force experienced one of the most horrific attacks in its history. Last week, Airmen from Eglin Air Force Base looked back on the incident and how it changed them — and the Air Force — forever.
In honor of those who were lost in the attack, a ceremony was held commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Khobar Towers terrorist attack on June 24th at the Nomad Memorial Grounds at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County.
The ceremony honored the 12 Eglin Airmen who lost their lives on June 25, 1996, and paid tribute to the families and survivors.
“This attack shook our nation to its core,” Col. Lance Pilch, the 33rd Fighter Wing commander, said. “This was the first time we lost this many servicemen in an act of terror. The effect of this terrorism ripples through us even today as we reflect on who these Airmen could have been, were they still alive today.”
The bombing at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was the first terrorist attack of its kind and resulted in more than 500 civilian and military casualties. The 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin suffered 105 wounded personnel and accounted for 12 of the 19 Airmen killed on that day.
“Twenty years, in some respects, seems like an eternity, but there are times when it seems like 20 days because our memory of that tragic night is still so clear,” said retired Col. Doug Cochran, 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron commander at the time of the attack. “The sting of loss fades somewhat over time, but the memories of our fallen heroes and their sacrifice remains vivid.”
The ceremony consisted of a wreath laying, recitation of the names of the victims, playing of Taps, the first flyover in a Missing Man formation for the F-35A.
“The memory of these heroes taken and those who live on ignite in us a firm resolve to honor their sacrifice,” Pilch said. “These Airmen did not falter to answer the call to serve our nation and their legacy lives on in their brothers and sisters-in-arms. Today’s Nomads who carry the torch forward still fight and still serve our nation with fire from the clouds.”