by Max Brantley
And that's not all of the melting pot. Another sailor had an American father and a Japanese mother. Still another was the son of a black American and a white French woman.
The seven sailors who died when the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a container ship last weekend were a snapshot of the nation they served: an immigrant from the Philippines whose father served in the Navy before him; a poor teenager whose Guatemalan family came north eager for opportunity; a native of Vietnam hoping to help his family; a firefighter’s son from a rural crossroads in the rolling green fields of Virginia.
In recent years, the military has tried to draw in immigrants with programs that allow enlistees to become citizens after basic training, attracting about 5,000 takers each year, according to the Defense Department. One out of every 13 sailors is foreign born, the highest proportion in any military branch, according to the Navy. The service regularly holds citizenship ceremonies aboard ships.The article includes a quote from an Arkansas sailor.
At the same time, the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities in the military, mirroring the nation as a whole, has surged to 40 percent — nearly twice what it was 20 years ago.
Former sailors from the destroyer said the diverse ranks shared a common cause.
“You are crammed in with all sorts of cultures on the ship,” said Corey Bell, 23, of Wynne, Ark., who served on the destroyer with six of the sailors who died. “But when you are on the Fitzgerald, you’re family. There was no racism or nothing.”