HIGH POINT, N.C. — James Parlier has quite a story to tell, and he’s spending a lot of time these days telling it.
“I don’t want anybody to forget,” he says. “I feel it’s important that the American public know that the Cole was a stepping stone to 9/11.”
He’s referring to the U.S.S Cole, the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer attacked by terrorists in October of 2000. Seventeen American sailors died that day. Nearly 40 others were injured. At the time, Parlier was the ship’s Command Master Chief — essentially the number three person in command.
Today, he’s retired, living in High Point, and spending a lot of time doing public speaking engagements on what happened that fateful morning when the Cole — en route to enforce the oil embargo against Iraq — stopped at a port in Yemen to take on 200,000 gallons of fuel.
“Nobody told us before we pulled in there were at least 60 al-Qaeda or terrorist-type attacks before we pulled in there, nor did we hear about any other activity that we would find out later after the attack,” he says. “[Had we known] I expect we probably wouldn’t have even pulled in.”
To hear Parlier describe what he was doing before, during, and after the attack, be sure to watch the story in the video window that accompanies this piece. Among other things, you’ll hear how he desperately tried to save the life of a critically injured sailor before having to make what he calls the toughest decision he’s ever had to make.
In the meantime, Parlier has a strong message for those who think the terrorist threat may not be as strong as it was.
“To this day, I still believe the Cole [which has been repaired and is back in service] is a target for al-Qaeda. They want to finish the job.”
He goes on to say, “We can’t forget our history. We have this freedom and it’s because of people who make sacrifices every day. Not just being away from home, not just standing out there on the front line on the tip of the spear, but those who have died for what we now live to enjoy, and that’s freedom.”