Kelley shares experiences in U.S. Navy

Jay Kelley’s sleep is occasionally disturbed by a recurring dream, one that is rooted in tragedy.
Kelley dreams he is fighting a fire on a U.S. Navy ship.

The Levelland man fought several ship fires during his 10 years in the Navy. But one in particular still haunts his dreams.

Kelley was serving on the USS Coontz, a destroyer, in the Persian Gulf when the unexpected happened.

The USS Stark, a guided missile frigate, was on patrol in the gulf when it was struck by two Exocet missiles launched by an Iraqi jet on May 17, 1987.

Kelley’s ship was refueling and unable to immediately respond to calls for assistance.

Kelley, a machinist’s mate, had previous firefighting experience. He and more than 40 other sailors were airlifted by helicopter to the scene.

The situation was not good.

‘She was crippled, she was listing 24 degrees,’ he recalled. ‘She had no fire pumps.’

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