By Jim O’Donnell, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – The Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka community showed their respect to the family and crew of USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during a memorial ceremony June 27 for the seven Sailors who died tragically June 17 when their ship collided with a merchant vessel southwest of Yokosuka.
More than 2,000 members of the Yokosuka community lined the streets waving flags and rendering salutes for the crew and their family members as they traveled the one-mile route in a “Line of Honor” between FLEACT Yokosuka’s Chapel of Hope and the Fleet Theater where the private memorial service was held.
“I wanted to show my support to military families in this time of need,” said Karen Sobba, joined the Line of Honor. Sobba, whose husband is on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), said coming out was a way to show her encouragement to the families. “This hits close to home, it could happen to any one of us,” added Sobba.
Showing respect to the crew and families was a common theme along the line.
“I wanted to show my support to the families who lost loved ones,” said Robert James, a civilian employee at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East. James’ children accompanied him on the line as he said he wanted them to see the importance of honoring the Sailors and their sacrifice.
The seven USS Fitzgerald Sailors perished when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer collided with the ACX Crystal in the early morning hours of June 17, causing extensive damage to the ship, flooding compartments where the Sailors slept.
The 650-seat Fleet Theater was filled to capacity for the somber ceremony honoring the seven Sailors:
Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California
Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
Adm. Scott Swift, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet was aboard USS Fitzgerald surveying the damage and commented on the ship’s crew and their actions to save their ship.
“It’s stunning, absolutely stunning, while we mourn the loss of the seven Sailors, that more were not lost, and it was the heroism of the entire crew that ensured that was the case,” said Swift.
“There was no understanding of what had happened at the moment of impact,” said Swift, reflecting on the actions of the crew following the collision. “But there was complete understanding of what needed to be done. We fight the ship to save ourselves. Every time we go to sea, the ship is our sanctuary and all Sailors have to come together as a crew and fight their ship, and that is exactly what Fitzgerald did.”
MC1 Peter Burghart and Dan Taylor both contributed to this story.