Parents of man killed in Pensacola terror attack talk about their pain and pride

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Dec. 8, 2019 at 12:42 AM CST
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Benjamin and Shelia Watson walked in downtown Pensacola Saturday after picking out clothing for their son's funeral. Each clutching the other's hand, they fondly remembered Joshua Kaleb Watson who had died only hours earlier.

Watson, at only 24, was killed Friday when shooter Mohammed Saeed Alshamran, a Saudi Arabian national, killed three and wounded eight others at the U.S. Navel Air Station in Pensacola.

“(Joining the Navy) is all he wanted to do and he was so excited to do it,” Shelia Watson said of her son Saturday during an interview with WTVY.

The one thing Joshua didn't care for was standing watch on the overnight shift but, like all his assignments, he accepted the duty with professionalism and dignity, his mom said.

Not long before he would have been relieved of his watch early Friday, Alshamran, a fellow aviation student, began firing.

“(Joshua) saved countless lives (Friday) with his own. After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” brother Adam Watson wrote on social media.

Long before Joshua became the country's hero, he had become his family's hero. His parents remember him as determined, dedicated, and passionate about his service.

Zealously, Joshua worked at a fast food restaurant during high school in Enterprise, Alabama and also found time to excel on campus. He joined the school's JROTC program where he became captain of the rifle team.

He realized his dream of military service when the US Naval Academy accepted him. His dad fondly remembers going to Zaxby's restaurant to tell Joshua when the acceptance letter arrived.

In Annapolis, he also captained the Academy's Rifle team and graduated in May 2019 with his degree in mechanical engineering and his commission,” Benjamin Watson said.

Joshua's most significant military achievement—and there would surely have been many more had he not died---is when the Navy chose him for its pilot training program. He reported to Pensacola NAS only two weeks ago.

With him now stationed only two hours from Enterprise, his parents relished the idea of spending more time with their son.

The last time they would see him was Thanksgiving weekend. He and his dad watched their favorite team, Auburn, win the Iron Bowl. Before he returned to Pensacola, Joshua went with his family to pick out a Christmas tree and helped decorate it.

Shelia last spoke to him Thursday night as he prepared for that dreaded overnight watch detail.

The next morning she heard about the shootings, then received word that her son had been taken to the hospital. A fellow officer who served with Joshua called while she and her husband traveled toward Pensacola.

“He said the chaplain wanted to know when we would be there and I knew then it wasn't just (a minor) injury,” Shelia said. She feared what had happened. “When we arrived they told us.”

Proud parents, the Watsons are now preparing to bury their youngest of three sons. They don't yet know when the funeral will be held though they expect services to be in Enterprise.

What they do know is Christmas will be void of a young patriot with a promising future. An angel that Joshua placed on the family tree he helped decorate will serve as a reminder of his many good deeds, love of family and, most of all, his love of country.