Scale of Fitzgerald tragedy revealed in reports from lost sailors’ hometowns
By SETH ROBSON AND LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2017
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Tributes are flowing for seven Navy sailors who lost their lives when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off Japan Saturday morning.
The scale of the tragedy was revealed in news reports from hometowns all across America.
In Ohio, the Chronicle-Telegram newspaper focused on Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, who’d followed his World War II veteran grandfather into the Navy in 1998. The Elyria, Ohio, native was three months short of retirement when he lost his life, the newspaper reported.
Daniel Kahle, of Chespeake, Va., who deployed with Rehm on the USS Ponce to the Persian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom, told the newspaper that his shipmate was “one of those guys that always had a smile on his face.”
“The way I feel right now is shocked,” his cousin, Brad Rehm, told the newspaper.
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, Calif., enlisted in the Navy soon after graduating from high school, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“There was never a time that Carlos wasn’t making people laugh,” Chase Cornils, a fellow cadet in Chaparral High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, told the newspaper. “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.”
Sibayan felt like the Navy was his calling, Cornils told the newspaper.
“I knew he was extremely excited to join and start his career in the Navy and serve our country,” he said. “He wanted to start as soon as he could.”
Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va., was a volunteer firefighter with the Lake Monticello Fire Department and a graduate of Fluvanna County High School, according to ABC 8 television news.
Classmates of Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of Oceanside, Calif., who attended Kubasaki High School on Okinawa, remembered him as a class clown who raised spirits on the tennis team.
Lan Thi Huynh, 23, the sister of Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc “Tan” Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Conn., told the Hartford Courant that her brother enlisted in 2014 because he wanted to give back to his mother who raised four children alone. The accident happened on her brother’s 25th birthday, she said.
“It’s not something he always wanted to do, but he wanted to do something adventurous,” she said.
“We will always remember him in our hearts as the most selfless person, quiet yet had the brightest smile,” she said. “I just want everyone to know that he was the best brother ever, and the sweetest human being that I knew.”
Darrold Martin, father of Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, of Halethorpe, Md., told Maryland news station WJZ-TV that the loss was hard.
“He’s my only child,” Martin said. “He’s all I have.”
His aunt, Daneace Jeffery told Baltimore FOX45 news station that Martin, a graduate of Lansdowne High School who joined the Navy five years ago, “was a wonderful man who loved his job.”
A cousin of Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, of Weslaco, Texas, told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth that pictures of her cousin always kept them together.
“We lived through his experiences. His travels. We were just proud that our boy was up there,” Aly Hernandez-Singer said.
“We all came from poverty in Guatemala,” Hernandez-Singer said. “He was the one who made it. And we were so proud of him.”