Dec. 6 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Enterprise native Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson and two other Navy sailors who were killed in a terror attack at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Fla. on Dec. 6, 2019.
Kaleb Watson’s mother and father Ben and Shelia Watson, joined by the families of Petty Officer Third Class Mohammed Haitham and Petty Officer Third Class Cameron Walters were honored on Dec. 4, 2020, at a ceremony at the NAS Pensacola where each family was presented with a Purple Heart.
The Purple Heart is a U.S. Military decoration – or medal – awarded in the name of the president to those that are wounded or killed while serving duty, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. Military.
After his death, Watson was honored with a scholarship created in his name at Enterprise High School and his family donated more than $800 in his name to the Wiregrass Wounded Veterans Committee.
Watson, who managed to make his way to first responders after the shooting to give a description of the suspect despite being shot, was also posthumously awarded the Navy’s Wings of Gold, as well.
The Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC) held a memorial service and wreath laying along with the Purple Heart Medal ceremony on Dec. 4.
“It was almost one year ago today during a despicable and cowardly act of terrorism that Ensign Joshua Watson, Petty Officer Third Class Mohammed Haitham and Petty Officer Third Class Cameron Walters paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation,” Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) Commander Rear Adm. Pete Garvin said in a story from the Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs. “As we lay this wreath for our three fallen shipmates, we honor their bravery and their sacrifice.”
Ben Watson said that the weekend was a tough one for the family.
“I really don’t have a lot to say about it. It just reminds me even more that he’s not here,” Ben Watson said. “It was a hard day and a hard weekend knowing that my son – and two other fantastic sailors for that matter – had their whole lives ahead of them and it was completely destroyed and cut short because of a terrorist from the other side of the world.”
The ceremony also recognized those that were injured during the attack, which included Ensign Kristy Lehmer, Ensign Brianna Thomas, Airman Ryan Blackwell, Airman George Johnson, Jessica Pickett, Capt. Charles Hogue, Deputy Matthew Tinch and Deputy Jonathan Glass.
“Today, we continue to mourn those who lost their lives. We also pay tribute to the eight sailors, marines, government civilians, Naval Air Station Pensacola security forces and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were injured,” Garvin said. “They all exemplify honor, courage and commitment.”
Ben Watson said that the communities in the Wiregrass and in Pensacola have been great to the family.
“The communities have really been great,” he emphasized. “Last year when we brought him home from Dothan all the way to here people stood outside to pay their respects. The same thing happened in Pensacola, people stood out in the rain to pay their respects. The communities have been fantastic.”