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'It does help to know ... people remember, care'

| Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010

For a New Florence couple, the reverberations of the suicide bombing of the USS Cole are both simple and complex.

As Veterans Day approaches each year, their rural mailbox fills with cards from friends and neighbors who will never forget the sacrifice of their son.

Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, and 16 other sailors were killed in the bombing of the Cole on Oct. 12, 2000.

Earlier this month, his parents could only watch from afar as the White House blocked efforts to revive charges against the man who allegedly orchestrated the terrorist bombing.

"It's been 10 years," said Dorothy Costelow, 79. "I would have liked to have seen those responsible brought to justice. It's just sad."

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was charged by U.S. military prosecutors in 2008.

In February 2009, the Department of Defense military commission withdrew those charges after a Guantanamo Bay judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, refused to grant President Obama's request to delay Nashiri's trial. The administration said it wants to review how to prosecute Guantanomo detainees.

George Costelow, 81, said his son died doing what he loved.

His mother said she tried to discourage her son from joining the military. She feared for his safety.

But Richard Costelow would not change his mind.

"He loved the Navy. That was his life," George Costelow said.

When the Cole was attacked, Richard Costelow was due home in two weeks.

He left behind his parents; his wife, Sharla; two sons, Brady and Ethan; one stepson, Dillon; and four siblings.

Before departing on the USS Cole in 1998, Costelow worked as an electronics technician at the White House for President Clinton.

During a memorial service Oct. 18, 2000, Clinton called Costelow a "technology wizard" who brought the White House into "this new century."

Costelow left it behind for sea duty, a requirement for advancement, George Costelow said.

"He wanted to make the Navy a career," the father said.

Yet, Costelow was humble, his mother said.

"He had trouble telling people what to do. He would rather just do it himself," she said. "He just wasn't of that character. It wasn't his personality to be caustic."

Costelow was raised in Morrisville, a town of 10,000 residents at the falls of the Delaware River, across from Trenton, N.J.

When he died, support for his parents came from throughout the commonwealth.

"From opposite sides of the state -- the community of Morrisville and the people here -- were unbelievable," Dorothy Costelow said. "I can't imagine people being so caring. When something as tragic as this happens, people can try to ease a little bit of the pain, and that's certainly what they did."

Two memorial statues have been erected in Morrisville. Costelow's former high school classmates hold an annual golf tournament in his name to benefit a scholarship fund and other charities.

In New Florence, community members rallied around the Costelows, Dorothy Costelow said.

They still honor the fallen seaman with cards sent for Veterans Day.

"It does help to know that other people remember and care," Dorothy Costelow said. "It just continues. It hasn't ended. So I know people haven't forgotten about our son."

Neighbor Carol Henderson said the reason is simple: "I do it because I want to let them know we remember and appreciate their sacrifice."

Costelow was buried Oct. 20, 2000, in Arlington National Cemetery.

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