SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — One of the young Navy sailors killed in a Saudi gunman’s attack at a Florida base had boundless energy and a fierce loyalty to family and friends in Georgia that will make him “the most amazing guardian angel,” some of those closest to the slain sailor told hundreds at his funeral Monday.
Roughly 400 people, including dozens of uniformed service members, gathered at a Savannah church to remember 21-year-old Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Waltersof neighboring Richmond Hill. His casket, draped with an American flag, stood at the front of a stage adorned with Christmas trees.
Walters was among three sailors killed Dec. 6 when the gunman opened fire at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Federal authorities said the gunman also wounded eight other people in the rampage before a sheriff’s deputy killed him.
The slain sailor’s father, Shane Walters, has said his son had recently arrived in Florida after completing boot camp and was standing watch at the entrance of a classroom building where the attack occurred.
Mourners in the front row at Walters’ funeral in the large sanctuary at Compassion Christian Church included Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff at all statewide buildings to honor the sailor.
Hunter Cannon, one of Walters’ best friends, spoke through tears during the service as he described Walters as his brother — not by blood, but by choice.
“The only time he was every down was when he was asleep,” Cannon said. “…His loyalty was unmatched.”
“Although we lost someone as amazing as Cameron,” he said, “we got the most amazing guardian angel you could ask for.”
The attack that ended Walters’ life was scarcely mentioned during his funeral service. Instead, those who knew Walters best focused on his love of life and a near constant smile that allowed him to quickly make friends with complete strangers.
Pastor Harrison Huxford described a trip to a shooting range Walters made with his father in which the young man ended up befriending all of the other gun owners and persuaded them to let him try out their firearms.
Many of the photos in a slideshow that played during the service showed Walters relaxing during boating trips on the Georgia coast. Family friend Shawn Hygh said from a young age Walters liked to work on cars in the garage with his father, sometimes snatching tools and saying: “Daddy, I got this.”
Walters’ funeral followed a somber homecoming Saturday when people holding American flags lined a main street in Walters’ hometown as his casket arrived, escorted by motorcycle riders. Similar scenes played out over the weekend in Alabama and Florida as the bodies of Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson and Airman Mohammed Shahed Haitham came home.
The funeral for Watson, 23, of Enterprise, Alabama is scheduled for Sunday. Arrangements have not been announced for Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Authorities identified the Pensacola gunman as Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani. He was undergoing flight training at Pensacola, where members of foreign militaries routinely receive instruction. The FBI has said it was operating under the assumption that the attack was an act of terrorism.
The Navy posthumously awarded all three slain sailors the gold wings badge they had been training to earn.
Another of Walters’ best friends, Greyson Ward, urged others to move past their anger over his violent death.
“Cameron wouldn’t want us to keep this anger,” Ward said. “Cameron brought so much good to our lives.”
Crying, he said: “I love you, brother. You earned those gold wings.”