‘He brought a lot of light to the world’: Lives lost on USS Stark remembered in Mayport

MAYPORT — The lives of 37 fallen sailors aboard the USS Stark in 1987 were honored Tuesday morning at Naval Station Mayport.

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Family members of the fallen sailors, members of the 1987 Stark crew and other veterans gathered and took a moment to reflect as each name was read.

Action News Jax spoke with Tom Marshall, who was a gas turbine mechanic on the USS Stark in 1987.

“I had been onboard for about nine months,” Marshall said. “I was 19. You tell our stories outside of here, and no one really gets it. The folks here do.”

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Two Iraqi missiles had struck the USS Stark in the Arabian gulf, which is a moment USS Stark crew members say they’ll never forget.

“They were all good men, and we don’t want them to be forgotten,” Marshall said.

The crew onboard fought to save the ship and their fellow shipmates, despite the severe damage.

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Tuesday’s service saw the largest turnout organizers say they have seen so far.

The support also holds a deep place in the hearts of those who lost a family member on May 17, 1987.

Ernestine Foster’s husband, Vernon Foster, was a senior petty officer onboard the USS Stark. Vernon was one of the 37 sailors who were killed during the attack.

“Those 37 brave heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice for our United States and the nation,” Ernestine said. “They fought a good fight, and they finished their course. They have already received, all of them, a crown of righteousness.”

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Her son, Vernon Tyrone Foster II, was only 2 years old when he lost his father but shares how he’s remembered by many.

“He was a great man,” Foster II said. “He brought a lot of light to the world. He lifted the people up that surrounded him. His other shipmates, his friends, his family.”

In his eyes, that’s the definition of what a leader is.

“Although I didn’t know my dad, I think having these men here, having his shipmates here and sharing those stories and experiences and what my dad meant to them is encouraging for me,” Foster II said.

The USS Stark was decommissioned at Mayport in 1999.