ELYRIA, Ohio - An Elyria native was among the seven sailors killed onboard the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.
Gary Rehm was following in his grandfather's footsteps when he decided to make the Navy his career nearly 20 years ago. His grandfather spent a lot of time with Gary and his cousins.
"We went to NASA, air shows, we would pile into a Buick and head out for the entire day," said Brian Rehm, Gary's cousin.
Now, those memories are even more precious to Brian Rehm. "I prayed he was going to be okay, because when I heard the news, he was missing. The final news, it was devastating," he explained.
Rehm's family members are heartbroken but very proud as well.
"He was definitely a hero," said Rehm. The family said they were told that Gary Rehm saved up to 20 people before being trapped himself. "He was going in and out helping the men get out of there. Then he went in for the last time," Brian Rehm explained.
Gary Rehm went to JVS, got his first job working as a golf caddy at Elyria Country Club. "He was a happy, joyful person," said Brian Rehm.
"He was an amazing person and I'm proud of everything he did," he added.
Gary Rehm came from a close family. In fact, his parents moved to Virginia to be near him. Gary Rehm was supposed to retire in September, this was expected to be his last time at sea. "He had a whole life ahead of him," added Brian Rehm.