Nizaire Cromartie, a Navy captain and outside linebacker, will wear a Naval Aviation Schools Command patch over his heart in honor of Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed S. Haitham and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters. The three were shot and killed last week at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida by a Saudi military officer who opened fire on their classroom.
The Naval Aviation Schools Command patch is worn by students on their flight suits, but Cromartie's will feature a black bar marking the date -- Dec. 6, 2019 -- that Watson, Haitham and Walters were murdered where they trained.
Watson, a 23-year-old from Alabama, graduated from the Naval Academy in May. He was a member of 10th Company there and captain of the rifle team.
"Watson's shipmates from 10th Company will be wearing red, white and blue ribbons pinned to their lapels," the Naval Academy posted on its Facebook page. "... Several of the leadership and midshipmen will be wearing NASC patches provided straight from the flight suits of Watson's Pensacola classmates (class 20-04) in his memory."
Midshipmen have a long history of wearing unit patches on their uniforms in honor of Navy and Marine Corps units. The Washington Post reported that Cromartie was originally planning to wear a Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 75 patch, but he swapped it for the Naval Aviation Schools Command patch after the attack.
Greg Morgenthaler, the Mids' associate athletic director for equipment operations, told the Post he asked Cromartie about the patch, and explained that one of the victims was an Academy grad. Cromartie reportedly replied that he would "be honored and blessed to play for this young man."
Watson's brother, Adam Watson, wrote shortly after the attack that the Navy ensign "saved countless lives today 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," Adam Watson wrote. "He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled."
Earlier this week, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly posthumously awarded Wings of Gold to the three Pensacola shooting victims. Watson was an aspiring aviator, and Haitham and Walters were training to be naval air crewmen.
The Army-Navy game will be played in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Army Black Knights have won the game the last three years.