Gary Rehm Jr. called the younger mates on the USS Fitzgerald “his kids.”
“He was the oldest,” said his uncle, Stanley Rehm Jr. of South Amherst. “If his kids were going to die, he was going to die with them.”
Age 37, U.S. Navy Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr. was among the seven crew members killed when the Fitzgerald collided with the ACX Crystal, a Philippine merchant vessel.
At first declared missing, their bodies were found by divers in the ship’s flooded berthing compartments.
Rehm lived in Virginia but hailed from Elyria. He was a 1998 graduate of Oberlin High School who attended the Lorain County JVS.
His uncle described the sailor as “all Navy” and said he idolized his grandfather, World War II veteran Stanley Rehm Sr.
The younger Rehm had planned to retire in as little as three months before the crash at sea, unless he earned a promotion to captain. Stanley said he was confident his hero nephew would have earned the rank.
Gary leaves behind a wife, Erin. He also loved his shipmates, inviting many home on holidays.
“He’d do anything for anybody. He put others before himself. If somebody needed something and he could give it to them, he did. He was that kind of guy,” Stanley said.
The family expects a burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Funeral plans have not been announced.
Also killed in the Fitzgerald tragedy were:
• Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Va.
• Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Douglass, 25, of San Diego, Calif.
• Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Conn.
• Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas.
• Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, Calif.
• Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Md.
“The Navy family comes together during tragic events such as this and I want to thank those who continue to provide around-the-clock assistance to the affected families during these difficult days.” said Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley.
“In due time, the United States Navy will fully investigate the cause of this tragedy and I ask all of you to keep the Fitzgerald families in your thoughts and prayers as we begin the task of answering the many questions before us.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.