Jeff Jardine

Air Force names building after 1996 bombing victim Justin Wood

Airman 1st Class Justin R.Wood, 20, was one of 19 Americans killed on June 25, 1996, when a truck bomb exploded outside a military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Wood, who was serving a second two-month tour in Saudi Arabia, graduated from Modesto’s Downey High School in 1993 and enlisted in the summer of 1994.
Airman 1st Class Justin R.Wood, 20, was one of 19 Americans killed on June 25, 1996, when a truck bomb exploded outside a military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Wood, who was serving a second two-month tour in Saudi Arabia, graduated from Modesto’s Downey High School in 1993 and enlisted in the summer of 1994. Associated Press file

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

IN MEMORY OF – A few months ago, Richard and Kathy Wood of Modesto received a phone call from a lieutenant colonel at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

The officer told them a building would be named in honor of their son, Airman 1st Class Justin Wood, who died June 25, 1996 – 19 years ago next week – during the terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia.

Another Modestan, Staff Sgt. Alfredo Guerrero, had rooftop security duty that night, saw the gas truck drive up and saw the driver run away. Guerrero warned as many of the Americans in the building as he could, saving many lives. But Wood, 20, was among the 19 killed in the explosion.

The Woods paired the event with a trip to another base where Justin had been stationed, Patrick AFB in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and a visit with relatives in Florida. They arrived in Georgia, where the new rescue simulator building was dedicated in Justin’s honor on May 29. They expected a bronze plaque on the sidewalk or maybe attached to the building.

Instead, they were gratified to see much more. Over both entrances, in 10-inch lettering, visitors are welcomed to the “A1C Justin R. Wood Rescue Simulator.”

“We drove up and saw how big the building was and saw his name across both entrances,” Richard Wood said. “We both got a few tears in our eyes. (It was a) very emotional moment.”

There also are memorials to the bombing victims at both Patrick AFB and Maxwell AFB in Alabama.

REVVING UP – In 2013, I wrote about Modesto native Jill Gregory, recognized by the Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily as one of the most powerful women executives in sports. Gregory at the time was NASCAR’s vice president of industry services, a duty that focused on working with existing sponsors and recruiting new ones.

Last week, Gregory got another promotion, to senior vice president/marketing & industry services. She’ll oversee many facets of the organization’s marketing including the creative design department, tradition and brand marketing, advertising and marketing research.

Her parents, Dennis and Judy Gregory, live in Modesto.

A TRASH HEAP RUNS THROUGH IT – If you read the story in Monday’s Bee about Chris Guptill’s mission to rid the Tuolumne River of trash, he’s not alone. Residents who live along the Stanislaus River also are disgusted that the waterway and its banks are treated like a landfill.

Steve Hughes wrote to say he and wife Kathy live along the Stanislaus, and said people frequently come west from Jacob Meyer Park to use a sandy beach and leave behind their trash, which floats downstream. Residents are pulling out all kinds of trash from their own yards, including broken glass out of the river itself. They showed sheriff’s deputies photos of the junk. Deputies patrol the park, but can’t be there 24/7 to stop the littering. The only access to the beach, Hughes said, is the park.

Groups have staged Clean the Stanislaus days in the past, and three years ago I wrote about a man named Michael Puebla. He singlehandedly tidied stretches of the river in Oakdale, removing everything from clothing and pillows to tires and shopping carts. He also cleaned out homeless encampments beneath the bridges.

But the fact remains that some people simply show no respect for the river or those who live along it or use it. The trash reappears just days after being removed, and no segment of the river from Knights Ferry west is exempt.

FAMILY IN NEED – Nathan Robinson is a 4-year-old boy who lives in Turlock. I met his parents, Seth and Tess, at the recent funerals of the cowboys in Hornitos. Tess sang during both services.

Nathan was born with a rare genetic disorder that has caused other disorders as well. The main disorder, called 49,XXXXY, affects only 10 boys out of one million.

He cannot speak, eat – other than through a feeding tube, learn or interact socially. Among the disorders is sensory processing disorder, which affects his ability to eat solid foods. He has been accepted to a clinic in Colorado that specializes in the sensory processing disorder. The Robinsons will need to live there for two months while he receives therapy, a projected cost of about $25,000.

To help them, Playouse Merced is hosting “4 Needs 4 Nathan” beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. The event includes 1940s-themed entertainment, food and drink. Tickets are $40 or $24 with a student ID. Call Playhouse Merced at (209) 725-8587 or visit playhousemerced.com. Otherwise, donations can be made by check to Nathan Robinson, 1212 E. Harding Road, Turlock 95380 or at gofundme.com/4Needs4Nathan.

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