Naples sailors gather to remember three killed in car crash
NAPLES, Italy — Three sailors killed in a weekend car crash were remembered Wednesday by servicemembers and civilians alike in this large military community.
And like the varied backgrounds of the three sailors, those gathered in the Gricignano family housing area chapel showed their grief in different ways.
Some chose flowers, such as the bouquet laid in front of the speaker’s podium, with the message: “In memory of our fallen shipmates.”
Base security personnel remembered fellow patrolman Petty Officer 3rd Class Brittany M. Smith, 20, of Benbrook, Texas, by wearing black ribbon across the center of their badges.
Most gathered to give some time to honor Smith; Seaman Chad Creary, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Seaman Damein D. Verrett, 22, of Los Angeles.
Others just cried.
“When we hurt, we hurt together,” Chaplain (Lt.) Rob McClellan told the more than 350 people in the small chapel’s main floor and balcony. “There’s a lot we don’t know and there’s a lot we’ll never know. This whole tragedy, we’ll never fully understand.”
The deaths touched three different commands at two Naples bases. Smith worked for the base security department on the Gricignano support site, Creary was a cryptologic communicator for the Naval Security Group Activity on the Capodichino base, and Verrett was a dental technician at the Gricignano hospital.
“Not anybody would stand up and call her a hero like I do,” said Ensign Tom Jacobson, Smith’s division officer about her work checking IDs on Gricignano’s gates. “No matter what, everybody who stands that watch will be my hero.”
NSGA commanding officer Cmdr. Stephen Pearson called Creary “a young sailor who had a bright future ahead of him.” He told about how Creary was working on a college degree in business management and how he loved to “talk trash” when they played football together.
Creary’s co-worker Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Peachey spoke softly about her friend.
“No one you could ever know had a laugh like his,” she said about their first meeting. “If I can say I’ve learned something from Chad, it was not to take life too seriously.”
Cmdr. Craig Neitzke, commander of the U.S. Naval Dental Center, Europe, said Verrett had a case of “Pac-10-itis,” referring to his dedication to California sports teams. Verrett played sports, excelled at work and was active in the community, Neitzke said.
“We mourn for the loss of his potential and unfilled dreams. Focus on his ever-present smile. He gave it to you; don’t let it go out,” Neitzke said.
Italian and American authorities are investigating the Saturday morning one-car crash. Two sailors in the car survived after being pulled from the burning Alfa Romeo by two sailors in another car.
Seaman Darnicia Clay and Petty Officer 3rd Class Amber Ward were listed in critical but stable condition at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany early Wednesday afternoon.
Both were to be transferred to a specialized burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio on Wednesday.