In the early hours of this past Saturday, seven sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a local merchant ship four times its size off the coast of Japan. The men – at first thought missing – were confirmed dead the next day. Many spent their final moments helping to save some of the 200 other sailors on board, and are being remembered for their bravery and courage.
Gary Leo Rehm Jr.
Rehm, 37, of Elyria, Ohio, died while trying to pull men out of the flooding ship’s compartments, his relatives told multiple outlets. “He said, ‘If my kids die, I’m going to die,’ ” Rehm’s uncle told The Daily Beast. Rehm – a Fire Controlman First Class – joined the Navy right after finishing high school, inspired by his grandfather’s own service. He was set to retire in just three months and is survived by his wife, Erin, reported local outlet, the Chronicle-Telegram. “Gary was one of those guys that always had a smile on his face,” friend Daniel Kahle told the Chronicle-Telegram, adding “[It’s] such a great loss.”
Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas, was sleeping when he died from a head injury caused in the collision, his cousin Aly Hernandez-Singer told local outlet KTVT. Hernandez – a Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class – came from “poverty in Guatemala,” his cousin said. “He was the one who made it. And we were so proud of him.” He is survived by his wife Dora – his “first love” – and their 3-year-old son.
Ngoc T Truong Huynh
Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Connecticut, was killed on his birthday, the Sonar Technician 3rd Class’ sister told the Hartford Courant. Lan Thi Huynh said her brother had enlisted in 2014 to pay tribute to their single mother, adding, “It’s not something he always wanted to do, but he wanted to do something adventurous.” She called Huynh “the most selfless person” with “the brightest smile.”
Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan
Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, California, was a “natural-born leader,” his mother, Carmen Sibayan, told local newspaper the Press-Enterprise. She added, “Every day he brings joy to all of us.” According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Fire Controlman 2nd Class was once a cadet in Chaparral High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. His fellow cadet told the outlet, “There was never a time that Carlos wasn’t making people laugh. He always had a cheerful attitude and a smile on his face. When I think of Carlos, I can only remember an extremely happy guy who was willing to help all of his friends.”
Dakota Kyle Rigsby
Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Virginia, was a volunteer for his local fire department, according to local outlet WCAV. The Gunner’s Mate Seaman was “one of the most positive, uplifting guys I knew in school, no matter what,” his friend Ryan Boon told CNN affiliate WVIR. Added Lake Monticello Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Jean Campbell, “It’s a tragic loss and he was definitely taken entirely too soon… We just know that he is watching over us right now.”
Shingo Alexander Douglass
Douglass, 25, of San Diego, California, came from a military background, the son of a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt., according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Douglass, a Yeoman 3rd Class, enlisted in the Navy in 2014, and was “a really good kid,” his father Stephen Douglass told the outlet. “We’re still in sort of a state of shock.” Douglass is also survived by his mother.
Xavier Alec Martin
Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Maryland, was a Personnel Specialist 1st Class. His father, Darrold Martin, told Baltimore’s WJZ-TV, that Martin joined the military to follow in his footsteps. “He’s my only child. He’s all I have,” the grieving single dad told the outlet. He added to WBALTV 11 that Martin had been attempting to contact him for 36 minutes after the collision. “He was everything to me. He was a patriot. He was an American. He would make any parent proud.”