WATERTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a community wide show of gratitude, respect and patriotism.
The Watertown-Oakville Veterans’ Council held a public memorial ceremony to honor the 7 American sailors killed last month when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided off the coast of Japan.
One of those American sailors killed was a product of the Oakville/Watertown, Connecticut community — Ngoc Troung Huynh.
Around town, they called him “Tan”.
A group of speakers stepped up to the mic to praise Tan at the Oakville Green.
“You gave your life for us,” one speaker said. “You will not be forgotten here.”
Tan grew up in Watertown. He graduated from Watertown High School and attended Naugatuck Valley Community College before realizing his dream of serving America.
“I thank you Tan for living out your dream,” another speaker said. “And the pride that your success brought us here.”
People here remember him as a quiet kid. On this occasion, they used another word to describe him.
“He’s a hero,” said Artie Atwood.
A crowd gathered to honor Tan, but not everyone was from town. Some traveled to be there because they, too, served in the Navy and felt a connection.
“I was also stationed in Japan for just under three years,” said Tommy DeMatteis. “I was 25 years old at the time (the same age Tan was when he died) — a lot of common occurrences between him and I. Him from the small town. So, when we found out he was from town, we wanted to honor him and thank him.”
Dignitaries came to honor him, too — like Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. He saluted the community for saluting Tan.
“Watertown and this area are really the epicenter of respect for veterans,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Every veterans cause, every single veteran is respected in this town and I am here to say thank you.”
A representative from Japan was there to honor Tan, too.
“On behalf of the people of Japan, the government of Japan, I would like to extend sincere condolences,” the representative said.
Tan’s family moved to Oklahoma. They held a funeral for him out there at the same time their old community was honoring Tan in Oakville. People here hope his family is comforted by the love and show of respect on display in Connecticut.
Ngoc T. Truong Huynh — “Tan” — was a sonar technician 3rd class in the United States Navy. He was 25 years old.