Thirty-one Navy wives, mothers, children, veterans and sailors came together on June 23 to remember the crew of the USS Fitzgerald. “We need to be involved in in each other’s lives,” veteran John Bray said. Terryl Asla | Kitsap News Group

Bremerton vigil honors crew members of the USS Fitzgerald

Some offered prayers. Others spoke words of comfort for the sailors’ families.

BREMERTON — In the days to come, there will be many tributes to honor the crew of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62).

But the simple twilight memorial service that took place on the dock at the Port of Bremerton on June 23 was particularly moving. There were no speeches by politicians, there was no choir. There was just the incredibly blue bowl of sky from which God had swept every trace of cloud. And for music, the cry of gulls and rhythmic lapping of the waves.

There were no spectators, just a small band of Navy wives, mothers, children, veterans and active-duty sailors.

“We need to be involved in each other’s lives,” veteran John Bray said.

The service — near the Vietnam War-era destroyer USS Turner Joy (DD 291) — was organized by Ashley Speirs and Symone Anway, president and vice president of the Family Relations Group for the Gold Crew of the USS Michigan (SSGN-727). It wasn’t supposed to start until dusk, just before “Taps” was sounded at nearby Navy Base Kitsap-Bremerton. But it started early because, Speirs said, “I can’t keep from crying that long.”

Seven sailors were killed and several crew members injured early June 17 when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan. The Navy identified the deceased sailors as (in alphabetical order):

  • Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, California.
  • Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas.
  • Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Connecticut.
  • Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Maryland.
  • Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.
  • Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Virginia.
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, California.

Here on the dock at Bremerton, the crowd of 31 lit candles, passing the flame from one to another, each cupping their hands protectively around the tiny flames to keep the sea breeze from extinguishing them.

Speirs introduced Kathy Phillips, director of the NBK-Bangor Navy Relief Fund. Phillips spoke briefly, talking about the some 100 sailors on the USS Fitzgerald you don’t hear about — the ones who lived but lost all shipboard possessions when the berthing compartments were crushed and flooded — and how the Navy Relief Fund in the Fitzgerald’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan was working to meet their needs and comfort the living.

Next, Anway spoke words from the heart, fanning herself with her fingers in a vain effort to fight off tears.

Then, Speirs invited anyone else in the gathering to share what was in their hearts.

Some offered prayers. Others spoke words of comfort for the sailors’ families. One older gentleman at the back of the gathering said nothing. He just stared up and away, blinking back tears.

Throughout it all, there was a quiet pride — pride that there are still those who are willing to go in harm’s way for their country and, if necessary, lay down their lives.

Speaking of USS Fitzgerald sailor FC1 Gary Leo Rehm Jr., who is said to have lost his life attempting to rescue others from a flooding berthing compartment, Navy Chief Petty Officer Erik Sinks said, “You just do it. You protect everyone else before your own self … If you had asked him, he would have said, ‘I’m not a hero. It’s just what I was trained to do.’ ”

Speirs said, “That’s the heart and soul of our Navy and we love them so much.”

Then the simple service was over. Some participants with small children had to leave. Others stayed with Anway and Speirs until the sun passed below the hilltops — standing with their candles lit, waiting for “Taps.”

“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hill, from the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”

— Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group., Contact him at tasla@soundpublishing.com.

The Vietnam-era destroyer, USS Turner Joy (DD291) was the only spectator to the simple, yet moving, service. Terryl Asla | Kitsap News Group

Kathy Phillips, director of the NBK-Bangor Navy Relief Fund. Terryl Asla | Kitsap News Group

Ashley Speirs, president of the Family Relations Group for the Gold Crew of the USS Michigan that organized the service. Terryl Asla | Kitsap News Group

Symone Anway, vice president of the Family Relations Group for the Gold Crew of the USS Michigan. Terryl Asla | Kitsap News Group

Lighting the candles. Terryl Asla | Kitsap News Group

More in News

Two-year Kitsap crime fugitive Doll apprehended in Bremerton

Postal office thief, last living in Port Orchard, was arrested Wednesday

What’s that popping noise? It’s likely from naval exercises

Security Forces training will use blank ammunition this afternoon at NBK-Bremerton

Fathoms Royalty Court finding new ways for fun

Queen and her court wave to Bay Street motorists

Longtime local to help lead Poulsbo orchestra

The new executive director of the Poulsbo Community Orchestra has been involved… Continue reading

Kilmer bill renames Bremerton post office for Black naval sailor

The House of Representatives has unanimously passed U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s legislation… Continue reading

Health District again confirms only 3 new cases of COVID-19 in Kitsap County

Highest number in Bremerton with 53; lowest in BI with 45

Veteran teacher talks new normal for NKSD school year

School has been “back in session” in the North Kitsap School District… Continue reading

New Poulsbo Port Commissioner named

Port of Poulsbo has named Tom Rose as its new commissioner following… Continue reading

Poulsbo to convert 2 parcels of land into affordable housing

The Poulsbo City Council voted Wednesday night in favor of a resolution… Continue reading

Most Read