By David Kamioner | December 8, 2019

Annapolis, Maryland, the state capitol and home to the U.S. Naval Academy, feels like a small town.

I don’t mean in the provincial sense — but in the sense that those of us who live here tend to know one another through the military.

On a usual morning, you can see midshipmen jogging through the town, no matter the weather conditions.

On a typical day or evening, the young men and women who attend the Naval Academy can be seen strolling on Main Street by the water, taking advantage — like the rest of us — of the charming English fishing village sense of Annapolis.

That’s why, when we all got the news on Friday that there had been a shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, we held our breath.

When we let it out, the news was not good.

A Saudi Arabian flight student gunned down three sailors at Pensacola’s Naval Air Station.

The three were Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida; and Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, of Coffee, Alabama.

The Navy responded to the tragedy with a powerful statement.

“The Sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil,” said the Navy chief of information. “When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran toward it and saved lives. If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse.”

All three gave everything they had for their country.

All three should be remembered as heroes and the victims of a pernicious and hateful ideology that seeks to destroy freedom — and that specifically targets the United States.

It is also noteworthy that all three of these young men lived under a U.S. military policy that strips Second Amendment rights away from military personnel on a military post.

But only one had spent a lot of time with us here in Annapolis.

Ensign Watson was of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2019.

He graduated this past May — a scant several months ago.

People in this town knew him, liked him, respected him.

Joshua Watson will be been remembered here not only for who he was, but also for the way that he lived up to the highest standards of the naval service until he took his final breath.

After he was shot not once but five times — five times — by the gunman, Ensign Watson still managed to get to first responders and give them the information they needed to neutralize the shooter.

He succumbed to his injuries at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Florida.

Plebe (freshman) Midshipman A.D. “Trey” Currie of Jackson, Mississippi, 20, spoke to LifeZette exclusively this weekend about Watson and the mood at the Naval Academy in the wake of the shooting.

“As midshipmen, we know that as soon as we sign on the dotted line, we’ve got to be ready to accept the ultimate sacrifice for our country anytime, because we never know when duty might call in that way,” said Currie.

“Before he went to flight school, Ensign Watson was temporarily assigned duty here at the Academy,” he also said. “He was very active in plebe summer training and was a running group leader. I met him there.”

“He, and so many other men and women like him,” he added, “shape future generations of the Navy. Because of that, we’re heavily mourning him in Annapolis [right now] and will for some time. His life and the way it ended serves as a reminder to us of what devotion to duty and heroic actions really look like.”

Kaleb Watson’s brother, Adam Watson, wrote late Friday, “He died a hero and we are beyond proud, but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”

Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson was part of the military family of Annapolis as well.

He will not be forgotten by those of us who once wore a uniform — and by the brave men and women of the United States Navy who leave here to tame the waves.

Fair winds and calms seas now, Ensign Watson. You’ve earned it.

This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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