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22 years later, Navy honors fallen USS Cole sailors

Suicide bombers blew a hole in the ship's hull while it was refueling in Yemen. Families and former crew members are still hoping for justice to be served.

NORFOLK, Va. — Oct. 12, 2000 goes down as one of the darkest days in U.S. Navy history.

In an instant, a group of young lives were snuffed out.

The Norfolk-based guided missile destroyer USS Cole had pulled into Yemen for a refueling stop, when suicide bombers blew a 40-foot by 40-foot hole in the ship's hull.

Seventeen Cole sailors died. Thirty-nine were wounded.

"Even though it has been 22 years, the memory of that day in October, 2000 has not been erased by the sands of time," said the Cole's current commanding officer, Cmdr. Jim Welsch, during a remembrance ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday.

The names of each of the Cole sailors who died were read aloud, followed by the ceremonial tolling of a ship's bell. A wreath was laid at the USS Cole Memorial along the Willoughby Bay.

RELATED: Former sailors salute fallen shipmates, 33 years after deadly USS Iowa explosion

Meanwhile, after excessive legal delays, the alleged al-Qaida mastermind of the attack sits in a cell in Guantanamo. Abd al Rahim al Nashiri is somehow still awaiting a trial, all these years later.

"It's too long, too long. And we're still carrying it. The sailors, the sailor's family. Everyone's still carrying it," said former Cole sailor Angel Simmons.

Jamal Gunn, brother of fallen Cole sailor Cherone Gunn, said the long wait has been frustrating.

"For us, it's been 22 years, and we are still waiting for even the smallest amount of justice in some cases," he said.

Diane McDaniels, the mother of fallen Cole sailor James McDaniels, agreed.

"I just give up," she said. "I don't think we're getting to justice. He's just going to sit there."

Regent University school of law lecturer and former Army JAG officer Dave Velloney shared his concerns about how long the military commissions legal process is taking. 

"When victims have to wait for justice, it's just heart-wrenching on them and they get no sense of closure," he said. "The longer you delay it out, the more harm there is to the victims, the more harm there is to the system's own legitimacy and credibility."

The most recent snag in the death penalty case happened about a month ago.

Hours before a conference with the trial judge, the federal prosecutor who had advocated the use of evidence gathered from torture was removed from the case.

According to the Department of Defense, new pre-trial proceedings are scheduled for Dec. 3-17.

RELATED: Applying lessons learned from USS Cole attack, 20 years later

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