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Robert Dean Stethem
Born (1961-11-17)November 17, 1961
Died June 15, 1985(1985-06-15) (aged 23)
Place of birth Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
Place of death Beirut, Lebanon
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County, Virginia
Section 59, Grave 430
(38°52′41″N 77°03′57″W / 38.8780°N 77.0658°W / 38.8780; -77.0658)
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch USNavyFlag-Official.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1980–85
Rank USN CUCM.png MCPO collar.png Rating Badge ND.jpg
Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM)
Second-class diver (DV)
Unit Underwater Construction
Team ONE (UCT-ONE)
Awards

Robert Dean Stethem (November 17, 1961 – June 15, 1985) was a United States Navy Seabee diver who was killed by Hezbollah militants during the hijacking of the commercial airliner he was aboard, TWA Flight 847.[1] At the time of his death, his Navy rating was Steelworker Second Class (SW2). He was posthumously promoted to Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM).

Early life

Stethem was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, but grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Waldorf, Maryland. He was one of four children. His father and two brothers also served in the U.S. Navy. His mother was a civilian Navy administrator. He graduated from Thomas Stone High School in 1980, where he played defensive back on the varsity and junior varsity football teams. He joined the Navy shortly after graduating.[citation needed]

Navy career

In the Navy, Stethem was a Seabee Steelworker assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 62 in Gulfport, MS. He served multiple tours on Diego Garcia and Guam. Later, Stethem became a 2nd Class Navy Diver and was assigned to the Navy's Underwater Construction Team One in Little Creek, Virginia.[citation needed]

TWA Flight 847

On June 14, 1985, Stethem was returning from an assignment in Nea Makri, Greece aboard TWA Flight 847 when it was hijacked by members of the Lebanese pro-Iranian organization Hezbollah. The hijackers held 39 people hostage for 17 days, demanding the release of 766 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.[2]

When their demands were not met, Stethem was targeted as a member of the U.S. military, and was beaten and tortured. Finally, the hijackers shot him and dumped his body onto the tarmac at the Beirut airport.[2]

One of the hijackers, Mohammed Ali Hammadi, was arrested two years later in Frankfurt, Germany. He was tried and convicted of Stethem's murder and sentenced to life in prison. Three others, Imad Mugniyah, Hassan Izz-Al-Din, and Ali Atwa, were eventually indicted for their involvement in the incident. In 2002, they were added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. On February 13, 2008, Imad Mugniyah was killed in an explosion in Damascus, Syria.[citation needed]

Mohammed Ali Hammadi was paroled in December 2005 and returned to Lebanon. It is speculated that he was released in a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of Susanne Osthoff, who was kidnapped in Iraq one month earlier.[citation needed]

Awards and decorations

Stethem was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery Section 59, Grave 430 (38°52′41″N 77°03′57″W / 38.8780°N 77.0658°W / 38.8780; -77.0658), near other American victims of international terrorism.[2]

On August 24, 2010, in Yokosuka, Japan, onboard the ship named after him – the USS Stethem (DDG-63) – Stethem was made an honorary Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM) by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.[citation needed]

Honors

Crest of the USS Stethem (DDG-63)

In his hometown of Waldorf, the Robert D. Stethem Memorial Sports Complex is named in his honor.[3]

There is also a vocational school located in Pomfret, Maryland named the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. In Virginia Beach, Virginia there is a barracks named in his honor at the Navy's Training Support Center Hampton Roads. The Stethem Memorial Navy Lodge at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi also bears his name. In addition, the Port Hueneme Naval Construction Training Center headquarters building and a street on the base are named in his honor.[citation needed]

In 1995, the U.S. Navy launched named a new Aegis Arleigh Burke-class destroyer – the USS Stethem (DDG-63) – in his honor.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. Thinking of Robert Dean Stethem June 13, 2010 New York Sun editorial
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Unofficial Arlington Cemetery Page – Robert Dean Stethem
  3. Robert D. Stethem Memorial Sports Complex. Charles County, Maryland. Retrieved September 29,2 013.

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