- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

PORTSMOUTH, Va. Injured sailors from the USS Cole began going home yesterday, with 20 crew members released from the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth.
The wounded sailors have been given convalescent leave ranging from two weeks to 30 days, but none plan on leaving the region just yet, according to Navy spokesman retired Cmdr. Mike Andrews.
Cmdr. Andrews said all the injured sailors plan to attend a memorial service at Norfolk Naval Base tomorrow for the 17 Cole crew members killed or missing in the wake of Thursday's apparent terrorist attack in the Yemeni port of Aden.
"They need that closure," said Capt. Martin Snyder, the senior attending physician in Portsmouth who checked out the sailors as they came in Sunday night. "It will be really emotional when they are all wheeled out on stretchers and wheelchairs."
Some of the 33 injured sailors hospitalized in Portsmouth spoke with reporters yesterday about the attack on the destroyer that calls Norfolk home.
Seaman Apprentice Andrew Nemeth had just picked up his meal from the mess hall when an explosion ripped through the hull.
"I bounced off the ceiling and landed on the deck," Seaman Nemeth told an Associated Press reporter. "I felt fuel spraying. I thought at first, me being an engineer, that a fuel line had been busted."
Seaman Nemeth, 19, a turbine technician and native of Amherst, Ohio, said he didn't feel safe again until he returned to the United States on Sunday.
"When I was in the Yemen hospital, I didn't know who I could trust," he said.
The seaman's face was severely cut, but he said he felt well.
He said sailors had received no specific warnings about any terrorist threats before the explosion.
"We weren't really told about any dangers, but being in the Navy you expect it," he said. "Any time you go into the Persian Gulf, you know something might happen."
The sailors received a visit from Gloria and John Clodfelter of Mechanicsville, Va., whose son Kenneth is among the 10 missing sailors.
"This is a way that helps us get through this," John Clodfelter said.
"To see them and know they made it gives me such a good feeling inside," Gloria Clodfelter said.
The sailors all underwent debriefings Monday conducted by Navy psychiatrists.
"Any time somebody goes through something like this, it's going to change them," said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Simmer, a psychiatrist with the Navy's Special Psychological Rapid Intervention Team.
Lt. Cmdr. Simmer said sailors had little time to deal with their emotions when the attack occurred, and the debriefings allow a time to do so.
"Obviously, sailors do tend to maintain a stiff upper lip," Lt. Cmdr. Simmer said. "More than average they have really pulled together as a group. They are really a very cohesive unit."
Rear Adm. Clinton Adams, commander of the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, said only one of the 33 sailors required surgery. That sailor, who suffered a compound ankle fracture that likely had become infected, was in stable condition Monday, although there is a chance his leg will have to be amputated.
Dr. Snyder said two of the patients discharged yesterday were treated for psychological injuries something that's understandable, he said.
"The younger kids, they come in [to the Navy] to get to college, to see the world," Dr. Snyder said. "Nobody ever thought they were going to get shot at."
Ten of the 13 remaining sailors may be discharged from treatment today.
Four more crew members are expected to arrive in Virginia today from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Another injured sailor was flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to be closer to home while another injured Cole crew member remains at Ramstein.
Navy officials said they expect that the remaining 330 crew members of the Cole will probably return within the next two months.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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