- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

A solemn remembrance ceremony was held yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the 19 U.S. Airmen killed in Saudi Arabia in 1996 when terrorists drove a truck bomb into their housing facility.

“It really touched my heart,” Raphael Haun, the son of Capt. L. Timothy Haun, said after the ceremony.

He was among the nearly 100 family members and soldiers who braved the rain to mark the 10th anniversary of the Khobar Towers bombing.

Mr. Haun and three other children of the airmen who died in the attack received gold medals of remembrance from the White House Commission on Remembrance, a government agency that promotes ceremonies throughout the year to honor fallen troops.

The midday ceremony took place in Section 59 of the cemetery, where Master Sgt. Michael Heiser and Airman 1st Class Brian McVeigh, who both died in the attack, are buried along with other victims of terrorist attacks.

After the names of the fallen airmen were read, Fran and Gary Heiser, the parents of Sgt. Heiser, placed roses at their graves.

A message from President Bush was read to the families. “Each took an oath to defend America, and they upheld that oath with bravery and decency. … Our country will forever be grateful for the selfless dedication and service of those who wear the uniform of the United States,” the message said.

Family members were included in the ceremony. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by 11 parents, brothers, sisters and wives of the 19 men who died.

“We lost them to an enemy we didn’t yet know in a war that we didn’t know had begun,” said Lt. Gen. Steven G. Wood, a decorated pilot and the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs. “We renew our pledge to continue until these terrorists — in all their incarnations — are vanquished.”

The attack took place on June 25, 1996, when terrorists, identified as members of Hezbollah, exploded a massive truck bomb in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The attack also killed one Saudi and wounded 372 other Americans.

The bomb tore away an entire wall of a high-rise apartment building, part of the Khobar Towers complex housing U.S. Air Force men and women assigned to the nearby Dhahran Air Base.

The National Commission on Terror Attacks Upon the United States said in 2004 that al Qaeda might have helped with the attack.

The troops attacked were part of Operation Southern Watch, and their mission was to patrol the skies of southern Iraq and prevent Iraqi aircraft from entering the no-fly zone.

Gen. Wood said no-fly operations were resumed the day after the attack. He said there are now more than 25,000 airmen in Iraq and surrounding countries.

Officials at the ceremony said the 19 airmen who died were from 15 states.

The rain stopped as the ceremony began, but resumed at the end when remembrance wreaths were placed at the graves.

The ceremony ended at 1 p.m. with the Air Force Marching Song.

After the ceremony, family members were invited to a lunch at Fort Meade.

The FBI will brief family members today on the status of the 14 men indicted in the case in 2001 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

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