Thirty-six sailors who were aboard the destroyer Fitzgerald on June 17 when it collided with a merchant vessel off Japan received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals in a ceremony Friday.
The medals were awarded for the crew’s damage-control efforts after the ship was struck and rapidly flooded, a disaster in which seven sailors drowned.
While the Navy has released a harrowing account of how the Fitz crew saved their ship, just how the collision happened in the first place remains unclear as several investigations continue.
The Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal is awarded to troops who distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service.
Sailors had less than a minute to escape as seawater blasted through a massive hole in the destroyer Fitzgerald after a container ship struck its starboard side on June 19.
Garret Zopfi and Kumi Bergstraser, two of the ship’s ombudsmen that support Fitz families, received flag letters of commendation at Friday’s ceremony in Japan, which was overseen by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer.
The sailors who received the medal Friday are:
Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Alexander R. Vaughn (Surface Warfare)
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Joshua E. Tapia (Surface Warfare)
Lt. j.g. Stephany M. Breau
Lt. j.g. Heather A. Bul
Ens. Joseph A. White
Sailors receiving a gold star in lieu of third award:
Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate Christopher Perez (Surface Warfare/Expeditionary Warfare)
Sailors receiving a gold star in lieu of second award:
Chief Fire Controlman Travius L. Caldwell (Surface Warfare)
Chief Gunner’s Mate Jared B. Ogilvie (Surface Warfare/Expeditionary Warfare)
Damage Controlman 1st Class Emanuel Ascensio (Surface Warfare/Aviation Warfare)
Quartermaster 1st Class Carlos G. Clark (Surface Warfare)
Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Lucas W. Giles (Surface Warfare)
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Sabria D. Greaves (Surface Warfare)
Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Darion L. Hunter (Surface Warfare)
Damage Controlman 2nd Class David J. Marnien (Surface Warfare)
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Joshua A. Mason (Surface Warfare)
Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Sanerive J. Meredith (Surface Warfare)
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jackson T. Schrimsher (Surface Warfare)
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Matthew H. Stawecki (Surface Warfare)
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Romel A. Wade (Surface Warfare)
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Rebekah Wilson (Surface Warfare)
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Aaron R. Aurelio
Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Danya A. Cribbs
Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Samuel A. Hill (Surface Warfare)
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Nathan W. Lauritzen
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Joshua H. Rodriguez
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Louis B. Simeone (Surface Warfare)
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Ryan P. Sorensen
Hospitalman Gaylord M. Lawrence
Fireman Matthew J. Mugg
Fireman Tyler D. Perkey
Fireman James A. Strickland