Science

Four Navy sailors in the same command appear to have committed suicide in less than a month

Four Navy sailors have died by suicide in less than a month at the same Navy command in Norfolk, Va., according to a Navy official.

All of them were assigned to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC), which repairs and maintains military ships. The Navy official also confirmed that most of the sailors were already in limited-duty status for a number of mental and physical reasons. Their condition calls into question whether adequate health resources were available to the sailors. NBC News first reported the suicides.

The officer confirmed that Cody Lee Decker, 22, of Virginia, was one of the sailors. An obituary posted by his family said Decker, who died on October 29, was a Navy electronics technician.

His father, Robert Decker, told CBS News that he is “angry right now.” He said his son had become depressed because of a toxic leader in his previous command.

Robert Decker said, “The military has to wake up. They have to change.” He said, “I want resources for Sailors, and I want leadership.”

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Navy electronics technician Cody Lee Decker died by suicide in October 2022.

Photo provided by Robert Decker, father of Cody Lee Decker


A few days later, on 5 November, Cameron Armstrong also died, confirmed by his mother, Sharon Armstrong. She said that her son, whom she described as “very sweet” and “a kind soul”, had been in the Navy for about four years, and that he had been seeking mental health care from the Navy.

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Sharon Armstrong (L) with her son, Cameron Armstrong, who died by suicide in November 2022.

Photo provided by Sharon Armstrong


After the first two deaths, the Navy ordered a mental health stand-off and brought in Kayla Erestivo, president of a non-profit counseling service. He had a serious report for the Navy.

“I certainly made it known to him how filled with despair our clinical team was in that command, and how many people have come forward to express that they have had suicidal thoughts over the last year of being in that command. There were also ideas,” Erestivo said in an interview.

The third apparent suicide occurred on the same day as the mental health flare-up, and the fourth took place this past weekend.

This is the second time in a year that the Navy has faced a spate of suicide deaths. It launched an investigation in April after three sailors from the crew of the USS Washington died within a week each other’s The Navy is trying to determine whether there were any underlying causes that led the crew members to take their own lives.

Living and working conditions on the carrier, which is undergoing a year-long overhaul, pose challenges for sailors. While it’s at the shipyard in Newport News, VA, the George Washington is essentially a construction zone, where it can be cramped, hot and loud for the crew on board. Top Navy commanders have acknowledged the hardships faced by the carrier’s sailors. The shipyard is not far from the maintenance center where the most recent suicides took place, just about 30 miles away.

Service members and veterans who are in crisis or have suicidal thoughts, and who know a service member or veteran in crisis, can contact the Military Crisis Line/Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, 24 hours a day. Can call 7 days a year, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255 or chat online at veteranscrisisline.net/chat.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal ideation, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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