Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson attended last year’s Army-Navy game as a senior midshipman at the Naval Academy. At this year’s game on Saturday, he’ll be honored along with two other sailors shot and killed last week in a classroom at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
Watson, 23, known to his friends as Kaleb, graduated from the academy in May and was planning on a Navy career as a pilot. The Enterprise, Alabama, resident was killed on Dec. 6, along with Airman Mohammed S. Haitham, 19, and Airman Apprentice Cameron S. Walters, 21, when a Saudi military officer opened fire in a classroom of the Naval Aviation Schools Command at the Navy station in Florida.
At the 120th Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Watson’s shipmates from 10th Company will wear red, white and blue ribbons pinned to their lapels, academy officials said in a statement released Thursday.
Defensive co-captain Midshipman Nizaire Cromartie will wear a memorial patch from the Naval Aviation Schools Command where Watson, Haitham and Walters were assigned. Several leadership members and midshipmen will wear NASC patches from the flight suits of Watson’s Pensacola classmates in his memory.
Watson, Haitham and Walters were posthumously awarded Wings of Gold on Tuesday. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly awarded Watson naval aviator status and declared Haitham and Walters naval aircrewmen. The insignia are awarded on completion of the required courses at Pensacola.
In the days since the shooting, Watson’s Naval Academy professors have reflected on their time with him.
John D. Stevens, associate chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Watson’s capstone team instructor, recalled the mid working on a semester-long rail gun project, which eventually won a mechanical engineering prize.
Months into the project, Stevens began to wonder if Watson’s team could pull it off, but one day the equipment they ordered for the device started to be delivered.
“From the other side of the room, I heard Josh exclaim, ‘Well! I think this is going to be a cool project after all.’ I smiled when I heard that," Stevens said in a statement released by the academy. “Then with deep satisfaction, I watched Josh and his team build and fire the gun with great success. In my years of working with midshipmen on their senior engineering design projects, Josh’s railgun turned out to be one of the best I’ve seen.”
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Another professor, Joshua Radice, an associate professor in mechanical engineering, met Watson at an afterschool mechanical engineering session. Watson, who went by his middle name Kaleb, shared a first name and a birthday with Radice.
“These sessions are above and beyond the call of duty; completely optional extra instruction, outside of the classroom, on his own time, with a faculty member that was not even his instructor,” Radice said. “That alone speaks volumes about who this young man was.”
Radice would later teach Watson in a rigorous engineering elective, which again showed Watson’s initiative and willingness to tackle a challenge.
“In the days since the news of Joshua’s passing, I have reflected a great deal on these experiences. The reports of his last act, mortally wounded yet spending his few remaining seconds focused on saving others, fill me with indescribable awe. But do not surprise,” he said.