Hero Navy Sailor Sacrificed His Life to Save 20 Sailors After USS Fitzgerald Collision

June 21, 2017 Updated: June 21, 2017

One of the sailors who perished in the aftermath of the USS Fitzgerald collision saved at least 20 fellow sailors before losing his own life, the Daily Beast reported.

Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr. often referred to the sailors he served with as his own children. In the chaos following the USS Fitzgerald crash with a Philippine-flagged container ship, he leapt into action to save them, according to various counts, the Daily Beast reported.

“He said, ‘If my kids die, I’m going to die,'” Rehm’s uncle, Stanley Rehm Jr. told The Daily Beast.

After Rehm saved 20 of the sailors, he went down to rescue more, but never returned.

Rehm, 37, was the oldest of the 7 sailors who died on the USS Fitzgerald. He planned to retire after his two-year tour on the destroyer. He did consider staying in case the Navy gave him command of his own ship.

“He helped everybody who needed help,” the uncle told the Daily Beast. “He was always ready to help anybody who needed it. He was just that kind of guy.”

If Rehm’s ship was docked close to his home in Virginia, he would often invite sailors who were far from home over for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter, according to his uncle.

The USS Fitzgerald was named after William Charles Fitzgerald, who stood alone against advancing Viet Cong forces in order to provide cover as his troops retreated.

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