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'Immense Bravery in the Line of Fire': 3 Sailors Killed in FL Shooting Awarded 'Wings of Gold'

12-11-2019
NavyWebsite
(Image credit: U.S. Navy graphic by Mass Communication Specialist Paul Archer)

The acting Navy Secretary on Tuesday approved the posthumous award of the coveted Wings of Gold to all three sailors who were killed during the Dec. 6 shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station located in Pensacola, Fla.

In a statement, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly proclaimed Ensign Joshua K. Watson as a naval aviator, and Airman Mohammed S. Haitham and Airman Apprentice Cameron S. Walters as naval air crewmen. 

"It is my honor today to present the Wings of Gold to the families of these three American heroes who were among the first to respond to horrific attacks upon our own naval family and tragically, were also our Sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting their brothers and sisters in arms," said Modly. 

"Although this authorization pales in comparison to their immense bravery in the line of fire, this winging represents the symbolic achievement of the coveted goal that all three came to Pensacola to accomplish: to join the long line of naval aviators, flight officers, and aircrewmen who have served the cause of freedom so valiantly for over a century. Airman Haitham, Airman Walters, and Ensign Watson represent the highest virtues of naval aviation, and undoubtedly belong in that great fraternity of selfless service to our Navy, our Department, and our Nation," Modly noted.

All three men were in the same classroom building when a Saudi trainee opened fire.

Modley has said that the young men ran toward danger, fighting to keep the gunman occupied.

The overall commander of all Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, also offered his condolences to the men's families. 

"Ensign Watson, Airman Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Walters are heroes," Miller said in a statement. "Their actions and sacrifice embodied the competence, courage, and character of those who wear Naval Aviation Wings of Gold. These wings were presented in honor of their brave actions and in everlasting memory of their sacrifice."

Eight other military personnel were wounded in the shooting. The gunman, Mohammed Alshamrani, a Saudi Air Force lieutenant, was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy.   

The investigation into the shooting continues. 

As CBN News reported, Haitham, 19, from St. Petersburg, Fla., had recently rekindled his Christian faith and had begun attending church with a fellow classmate. 

His former high school coach told The Washington Post that he was proud of Haitham for that renewed faith commitment and for the strong work ethic that he developed as he grew up. Haitham once told Snead that he was unsure what he wanted to do with his life, but he wanted it to be positive.

"He didn't want to be somebody who was going to coast," Snead said. "He wanted to be someone who was going to be a positive influence. And he worked like it."

Kimberly Walker told The Post that Haitham was her son's best friend and that his heroism was no surprise to her. 

"He was just so good that I knew the second authorities talked about a hero that he wouldn't allow anybody else to take a bullet if he could get in the way of it," Walker said.

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