Two slain US service members who have been hailed for their perseverance during the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, recently finished their introductory training in the Navy, paralleling another story marked with bravery from an aspiring troop wishing to serve in the armed forces.
Law enforcement agencies did not release the identities of the victims, but the men’s family members confirmed they were killed in the shooting. A third, unidentified victim was also killed.
Twenty-three-year-old Joshua Watson of Alabama was one of the three people killed in the shooting on Friday, according to multiple media reports. Watson, an aspiring naval pilot, recently graduated from the US Naval Academy.
According to a Facebook post from his brother, Adam, Watson had informed first responders of the shooter’s details and location, despite “being shot multiple times.”
“Today has been the worst day of my life,” Adam said in the Facebook post. “My youngest brother gave his life for his country in a senseless shooting.”
“He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled,” Adam added.
Watson, who was conducting flight training at the base, was the officer on deck during the shooting, his father, Benjamin, told USA Today . He added that his son wanted to join the military since he was five years old.
“Heavily wounded, he made his way out to flag down first responders and gave an accurate description of the shooter,” Benjamin told USA Today. “He died serving his country.”
Nineteen-year-old Mohammed Haitham of Florida, another victim, was also hailed for his service, his mother, Evelyn, told local media.
“The commander of his school did call me,” Evelyn, a Navy veteran, told the Tampa Bay Times . “He told me my son did try to stop the shooter.”
Haitham graduated from high school in 2018, joined the Navy, and had recently graduated from basic training. He was assigned to flight crew training in Florida, where he was expected to finish this month.
“He said he was going to get his flight jacket for Christmas,” Evelyn said. “Now that’s not going to happen.”
A previous incident in Florida bore some semblance to the victims Naval Air Station shooting. On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people.
Fifteen-year-old Peter Wang , an aspiring US Army soldier in the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program, was one of the students who was shot multiple times and killed.
Wang, who was in his JROTC uniform during the shooting, held open a door to help dozens of classmates and school staff members escape from the carnage. He was posthumously accepted to the US Military Academy at West Point “for his heroic actions.”