Carlos Sibayan was less than a month from coming home when the U.S. Navy destroyer he was serving on collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan early Saturday morning.
“If you never met my son, you missed a whole lot,” Carmen Sibayan, Carlos’ mother, told NBC 7. “In every sense of the word, he is my hero.”
The 23-year-old had been in the Navy for four years and spent three of those years in Japan.
Sibayan was one of seven men whose bodies were recovered from flooded berths inside the USS Fitzgerald Saturday after initially being reported missing.
“The way Carlos is, when you need help, he'll help you with his whole being,” she said.
Carlos, Carmen's eldest son, chose to follow in his father's footsteps.
“My husband just retired in the military for 21 years this last April, and I thought, you know, I survived,” she said.
Carmen said she reached out to other families after the collision.
“I didn't know that my son was the one that was going to leave us,” she said. The mother explained that when her husband was away, Carlos became the "dad" of the family.
“One thing that my son told me, that no matter what, he has my back,” she said. “Every time, he never failed. He always had my back in anything.”
Carols' 18-year-old brother, Vince Sibayan, said even though Carlos is gone, he will follow in his brother's footsteps and keep the family legacy alive.
Monday is Carlos’ other younger brother, Luke’s, birthday. He will be 12 years old.
“I just wish that I could hold him again,” Carmen cried with her family around her. “But we have to accept it. We just borrowed this time from God so now he has to go back."