On May 17 every year people gather to remember and honor the 37 crew members of the USS Stark who were killed in a 1987 missile attack in the Persian Gulf.
This year marked the 35th anniversary as former sailors aboard the Navy frigate and about 250 others paid their respects at the USS Stark Memorial at Naval Station Mayport.
"They're still inside," Petty Officer 1st Class Darry Allen said during the 2003 ceremony, patting his chest as he remembered his shipmates. "Knowing there's a memorial here, that it's not forgotten, helps a lot."
"I remember total darkness after the first missile struck the ship," he said, two years later as a chief petty officer attending 2005's tribute. "You couldn't see your hands in front of your face."
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The USS Stark was halfway through a six-month deployment in the Persian Gulf when an Iraqi jet fired two Exocet missiles at it. The first went through the barbershop, post office and part of the chief petty officers' quarters, sparking a fire that melted part of the bulkhead. The second missile engulfed the sleeping quarters, just after many in the crew had hit their bunks.
Survivors, working heroically, managed to put out multiple fires, though the ship was left with a gaping hole in its hull.
From Doran Bolduc to Lloyd Wilson, 37 died that day.
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After repairs in Bahrain and 10 months in a Mississippi shipyard, the Stark returned home to Mayport in September 1988.
It served until it was decommissioned at Mayport in 1999. The Stark memorial was erected some 12 years earlier, on Aug. 1, 1987, just inside the main gates of the port the ship called home.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville-based USS Stark crew killed in Iraqi attack forever honored