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USS John S. McCain sailors and their families head to a memorial ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Ten of their shipmates died in an August collision near Singapore.
USS John S. McCain sailors and their families head to a memorial ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Ten of their shipmates died in an August collision near Singapore. (Tyler Hlavac/Stars and Stripes)
A sign at the Yokosuka Naval Base chapel encourages thoughts and prayers for USS John S. McCain sailors and their families, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Ten of the destroyer's crew members were killed in an August collision near Singapore.
A sign at the Yokosuka Naval Base chapel encourages thoughts and prayers for USS John S. McCain sailors and their families, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Ten of the destroyer's crew members were killed in an August collision near Singapore. (Tyler Hlavac/Stars and Stripes)
Children wave flags during a procession of USS John S. McCain sailors and their families ahead of a memorial ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.
Children wave flags during a procession of USS John S. McCain sailors and their families ahead of a memorial ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Tyler Hlavac/Stars and Stripes)
Servicemembers salute a procession of USS John S. McCain sailors and their families ahead of a memorial ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.
Servicemembers salute a procession of USS John S. McCain sailors and their families ahead of a memorial ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Tyler Hlavac/Stars and Stripes)
Sailors from the USS John S. McCain attend a memorial service at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4., 2017.
Sailors from the USS John S. McCain attend a memorial service at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4., 2017. (Christian Senyk/U.S. Navy)
Chief Petty Officer Victor Grandados carries a folded flag to present to family members during the USS John S. McCain memorial service at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4., 2017.
Chief Petty Officer Victor Grandados carries a folded flag to present to family members during the USS John S. McCain memorial service at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 4., 2017. (Elijah Leinaar/U.S. Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The 7th Fleet’s new commander said “words are inadequate to express the grief we feel in losing 10 of our own,” during a ceremony Wednesday honoring USS John S. McCain sailors killed in an Aug. 21 collision near Singapore.

“We owe it to the families of the fallen sailors to find out why this happened and to make changes so that this doesn’t happen again,” Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer told those packed inside the 650-seat Fleet Theater for the service, a Navy statement said.

Before the ceremony, more than 2,000 servicemembers, civilians and Japanese base workers saluted and waved American flags as a procession of McCain sailors, friends and family members were bused from Yokosuka’s chapel to the theater for the service, which was closed to media.

The ceremony was also attended by new U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty, Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Adm. Yutaka Murakawa and Yokosuka Mayor Katsuaki Kamiji, the statement said.

Swift praised the McCain crew’s response in the aftermath of the collision.

“I have no doubt that your damage control efforts not only saved the ship but also saved the lives of many of your shipmates, enabling them to join us here today,” he said, according to the statement. “Know that your Navy family is committed to ensuring that you, the families and crew of John S. McCain, have the resources you need to continue your healing.”

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer ordered the fleet to fly U.S. ensigns at half-mast from sunrise to sunset Wednesday to mourn the lost sailors.

Most McCain sailors have returned to Yokosuka after being grounded at Changi Naval Base, Singapore, after the collision between the guided-missile destroyer and an oil tanker. A few are still in Singapore helping prepare the McCain for transport back to Yokosuka by mid-to-late October, Navy officials said.

Yokosuka’s Fleet Theater was the site of a June ceremony that paid respects to the seven USS Fitzgerald sailors who died after the destroyer collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.

hlavac.tyler@stripes.com

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