Family members have identified Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, as one of the victims of Friday’s shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
“Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” Adam Watson wrote late Friday. “After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”
When reached by phone, Watson’s father, Benjamin, said his son was the officer on deck at the time of the shooting. Joshua Watson, who is called Kaleb by some family members, was shot at least five times, he said.
“Heavily wounded, he made his way out to flag down first responders and gave an accurate description of the shooter,” Benjamin Watson said. “He died serving his country.”
Benjamin Watson said his son had dreamed of becoming a Navy pilot and reported to Pensacola for flight training the week of Veterans Day.
A native of Enterprise, Alabama, about 125 miles northeast of Pensacola, Joshua was a natural leader, a huge Auburn football fan, and a person who put others first and strove to bring out the best in them, according to his family.
“Kaleb was starting grade school when Sept. 11 happened,” his father said. “His uncle Richard Lindsay was a former Marine who served in (Operation) Desert Storm.”
Lindsay was killed in a tragic vehicle accident, and his military service was an inspiration to Joshua.
“He’s wanted to be in the military since he was 5 years old,” his father said.
At the Naval Academy, Joshua was a small-arms instructor, a wrestling coach and a captain of the rifle team, his father said. With pride, Benjamin recounted that the Academy’s rifle team had beaten the Army’s for the first time in a decade under Joshua’s leadership.
In the hours after the shootings, “I was texted by one of the officers who said Kaleb had saved lives,” Benjamin Watson said.
He said two men had been killed at the scene of the attack, and that after Joshua spoke with law enforcement outside the training building, he was taken to Baptist Hospital. He later died of his wounds.
Michael Johnson, who lives next door to the Watsons, described the family as great neighbors. He said Joshua Watson was a kind and brave young man. He said Joshua Watson once helped him rescue a neighbor’s German shepherd after it became entangled in a rope.
“He immediately jumped the fence, unclipped the thing and we left a little note for the owner,” Johnson recalled. “Amazing young man.”
Benjamin Watson said Joshua is survived by two older brothers, and that the best thing people can do for his family is to pray for everyone who was affected by the shooting.
“There are young sailors in the hospital fighting for their lives, and others in great pain and distress from the actions of this shooter,” he said.
Pain, pride and solemnity heavy in his voice, Benjamin Watson said he wanted people to know the true story of his son’s life.
“His mission was to confront evil,” he said. “To bring the fight to them, wherever it took him. He was willing to risk his life for his country. We never thought he would die in Florida.”
We honor you, Joshua Watson.