The family of slain Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson were saluted by hundreds of sailors and Marines at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Sunday.
In a somber display, the sailors and Marines stood in salute lining both sides of the roadway as Watson’s parents – Benjamin and Sheila Watson – drove through, as seen in a 10-minute Facebook live video.
Watson, 23, was one of three fatal victims of the Dec. 6 attack carried out by Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a pilot who was one of approximately 200 foreign military members training at the base, Reuters reported.
Watson was serving on watch inside the classroom building but was unarmed. He attempted to disable the perpetrator, but suffered five gunshot wounds.
Watson’s family said in spite of his wounds, he went outside the building to give vital information to first responders, including the perpetrator’s location.
“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” Watson’s brother, Adam Watson, said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Escambia County Sheriff deputies then confronted Alshamrani, engaging in a firefight that left the perpetrator dead, one deputy with a gunshot wound to the arm, and the other deputy with a gunshot wound to the knee.
“When confronted, they didn’t run from danger, they ran toward it and saved lives,” said Capt. Timothy Kinsella, the base’s commander. “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.”
Watson had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a mechanical engineering degree in May. His goal was to be a fighter pilot, and he began his aviation training path just last month, according to a Navy statement.
Watson was also an Expert Marksman and had served as the Captain of the Naval Academy’s 2018-2019 Rifle Team.
His family has spoken out against the military for not allowing service members to be armed.
“We, as a nation would have entrusted him on a battlefield somewhere with a wide array of Naval Assets, yet he was asked to answer the call of the “War on Terror” at home unprotected,” said his father, Benjamin Watson, in a Facebook post.