7 Sailors Emerged From Diverse Backgrounds to Pursue a Common Cause

“He was going out on so many adventures with his fellow sailors, and we at home missed him,” said the sister, Lan Huynh. But, she added, her family was “so happy that he was finally happy.”

“He found his purpose and he loved every minute of it,” she said.

Seaman Huynh, who went by Tan, was born in Da Nang, Vietnam, in 1992, and immigrated with his mother to the United States in 1994, looking for a better life, said Ms. Huynh. But his mother struggled to find her economic footing here, and his childhood was difficult and unsettled, with the family moving often. As the oldest of four siblings, he felt the tug of responsibility.

By 2014, Seaman Huynh, who his sister said became a citizen in 2009, was yearning to find adventure and a way to provide for his family, she said. So he enlisted in the Navy and was soon assigned to the destroyer that traveled to ports in Australia, Japan and Korea.

Mr. Huynh turned 25 on Friday, shortly before the collision that cost him his life.

“Wishing him a happy birthday,” Ms. Huynh said, “was the last thing we said to him.”

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.

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,…

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