Friday, January 27, 2023

Four Navy sailors at same command appear to have died by suicide in less than a month

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Four Navy sailors appear to have died by suicide over the course of less than a month in 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. Most of the sailors were already on limited-duty status for a variety of mental and physical reasons, the Navy official also confirmed. Their status raises questions about whether there were sufficient health resources available to the sailors. NBC News first reported the suicides.

The official confirmed that 22-year-old Kody Lee Decker, of Virginia, was one of the sailors. An obituary posted by his family said Decker, who died on Oct. 29, was a Navy electronics technician. 

His father, Robert Decker, told CBS News he’s “furious right now.” He said his son had been depressed because of a toxic leader in his previous command.

“The military’s got to wake up. They’ve got to change,” said Robert Decker. He added, “I want resources for the sailors, and I want leadership.”

Beryl TV  Four Navy sailors at same command appear to have died by suicide in less than a month Politics
Kody Lee Decker, a Navy electronics technician, died by suicide in October 2022.

Photo provided by Robert Decker, Kody Lee Decker’s father


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

Beryl TV  Four Navy sailors at same command appear to have died by suicide in less than a month Politics
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 down and brought in Kayla Arestivo, the president of a non-profit counseling service. She had a grim report for the Navy.

“I had definitely made them aware of how inundated our clinical team was with the hopelessness that was happening at that command, and how many people stepped forward and expressed that they also had suicidal ideation with the past year from being at that command,” Arestivo said in an interview.

A third apparent suicide occurred the same day as the mental health stand down, and a fourth took place over this past weekend.   

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

The living and working conditions on the carrier, which is undergoing a yearslong overhaul, present challenges for the sailors. While it’s in the shipyard at 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 difficulties faced by the carrier’s sailors. The shipyard is not far from the maintenance center where the most recent suicides occurred, just about 30 miles away.

Service members and veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a service member or veteran in crisis, can call the Military Crisis Line/Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 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 crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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