SOUTH AMHERST, OH -- There's a new nationwide push to honor the heroic efforts of a native Elyria sailor killed aboard the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.
Thousands have signed a change.org petition urging the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to name a destroyer after Fire Controlman 1st class Gary Rehm Jr. He died along with six other sailors aboard the destroyer when it collided with a Philippine container ship June 17th off Japan's coast. The commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet says the ship was in danger of sinking and was saved by the "heroic efforts" of the crew. Gary's family members say he died saving several sailors.
"Shocked me that so many people are signing it so many people he affected in a positive way it's unreal," said Stanley Rehm Jr., Gary's uncle.
During a Tuesday memorial the deaths of all seven U.S. sailors were remembered in Japan. Rehm's family members say the unexpected petition from an Illinois man they do no not know is a welcome comfort.
"It would mean the world to the whole family. It's not going to bring him back but it would be a way of remembering him for everybody else in the world to remember him," said Janet Rehm.
Details about Gary's heroism are currently being investigated. Family members say they do not know the Illinois man who started the petition, but they are grateful he is acknowledging their nephew's courage.
"Thank you so very much," said Janet. "He did something that the rest of the family at this time wasn't even thinking about because we're just in so much mourning that it's just not something that was at the top of your list you know and he comes forward and does something everyone in the family is so grateful for.
The U.S. Secretary of the Navy is responsible for naming destroyers. According to a Navy spokesperson destroyers are typically named after a Marine Corps or Navy hero, but in order for that to occur, funding to build a new destroyer must be allocated before a name is chosen.