Hero from the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr.

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Hero from the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr.

By now all of you have seen, read or heard about the horrific deaths from the collision of the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship off the coast of Japan. In case you haven’t, here is a pretty good news story out of Illinois, where one of the sailors hailed from:

Well, today The Daily Beast has more on this hero from Illyria and other sailors lost:

The word “shipmates” embraced two sailors who had followed family members into the U.S. military, but also one from Vietnam and another from the Philippines and another from Guatemala and another from Okinawa. The sister of the Vietnamese-American, 25-year-old Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc Truong “Tran” Huynh, had another word for those seven sailors as diverse as the country they died serving.

“Our family will never be whole again without him but we are just happy he didn’t die alone, he died with his brothers,” Mary Huynh said in a statement.


“The sailors on the ship he called his kids,” [Gary Rehm’s] uncle Stanley Rehm Jr. told The Daily Beast. “He called them his kids.”

And, by various accounts, Gary Rehm had saved at least 20 of them after the collision. He then went down to save more.

“He said, ‘If my kids die, I’m going to die,’” the uncle said.

Gary Rehm perished with the six others.

“He could have walked away and been safe,” the uncle noted.

Meanwhile, the investigation goes on, and according to General Keane on FoxNews, it likely was human error and preventable:

The Navy Times has more:

“It’s virtually unprecedented,” said Lawrence Brennan, a retired Navy captain who now teaches admiralty law at Fordham University's School of Law.  

“For two large ships, both operated by world-class shipping companies, to be in waters where they should expect traffic and not see each other, boggles the imagination,” Brennan said. 

The collision, coupled with the skipper not being on the bridge and some of the crew still in the berthing compartments, raises the possibility that the Fitzgerald never saw the Crystal coming, Brennan said. 

A collision alarm should be sounded to wake and mobilize the crew in such a situation, he said, yet some sailors were still in their bunks when the Crystal struck.  

So, as recovery operations and the investigation continue, seven grieving families will wait for answers.

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My ship (USS Ault DD 698) lost it's bow in about the same waters in Dec 1953 in a collision with the USS Haynsworth DD 700. If the collision would have been midships as with the USS Fitzgerald, it would have entered my berthing space in the O Division compartment. Scary!!

Reduced manning vessels dependent upon electronics were believed to save money in manning costs. As a retired Operations Specialist it is my contention that it does not improve operations, nor save lives, inevitably costing money which could not be saved.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.