On June 27, the Navy community in Yokosuka, Japan gathered to pay respects to the seven sailors who died when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the container ship ACX Crystal.
An estimated 2,000 people lined the procession route to honor the dead as the caskets traveled from Fleet Activities Yokosuka to the Fleet Theater, where the Navy held a memorial service for an audience of 650.
"I wish our theater could hold 20,000 people, because there were so many people who wanted to go in the theater, so many people lining the streets," said Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet.
Naval personnel from all corners of the fleet turned out to show their support for the families of those lost. “This hits close to home, it could happen to any one of us,” said Karen Sobba, the wife of a sailor on the carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Navy civilian employee Robert James brought his children to the procession so that they could learn the importance of honoring servicemembers' sacrifice.
The seven men lost on the Fitgerald were:
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, the commander of Pacific Fleet, surveyed the damage aboard the Fitzgerald and expressed his admiration for her crew. “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. While they may not have immediately understood the circumstances of the accident, "there was complete understanding of what needed to be done . . . 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.”
Vice Adm. Aucoin stressed that the 7th Fleet community – especially the Fitzgerald's crew - would need time to heal. "It was a traumatic event. That needs to come out loud and clear," said Vice Adm. Aucoin. "While we had a memorial today, it's going to take a while, days, months, years for all of us to come back from this."