The United States Navy is mourning the loss of three USS George H.W. Bush sailors after a series of unrelated suicides last week.
The deceased include Chief Electronics Technician Nuclear James Shelton, Airman Ethan Stuart and Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Vincent Forline, according to Navy sources cited by Task & Purpose.
Currently dry-docked at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia, the aircraft carrier crew has unfortunately struggled with service-member suicide before, with last week’s deaths marking the “third, fourth, and fifth crew member suicides in the last two years.”
None of the deaths occurred on board the ship.
According to Navy Times, the second death had taken place just a few months prior when Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Robert John Bartulewicz II died by suicide on July 16.
“Every death of a Sailor is devastating and affects our entire Navy Family,” base spokeswoman Commander Jennifer Cragg told Task & Purpose. “Our thoughts and condolences are with the family, friends, and shipmates of the Sailors.”
Capt. Sean Bailey, the carrier’s commanding officer, expressed similar sentiments Monday in a Facebook post confirming last week’s tragic happenings.
“My heart is broken,” Bailey wrote. “Now is the time to come together as a crew and as a family to grieve, to support each other, and to care for those in need.”
“We need All Hands to engage by bringing forward your suggestions and ideas for how we can work together to prevent another suicide.
“I want to reiterate that there is never any stigma or repercussion from seeking help,” the captain added, reminding service members that psychologists, counselors and religious leaders were available to them for discussions ranging from relationship struggles to financial difficulties to personal loss.
According to base spokespeople, no officers have been removed from their posts in light of the deaths by suicide.
But Decelerate Your Life — a Facebook page dedicated to making comedic content for service-members — has recently spoken out against the way officers aboard the Bush are handling these deaths.
And recent posts from the page indicate as many as 30 to 40 sailors assigned to the carrier have reached out to confirm a “toxic command climate” has taken hold aboard the ship and is wreaking havoc upon crew member’s mental health.
According to Navy Times, the suicide rate among active-duty Navy sailors has risen drastically in recent years with 68 suicides reported last year — a substantial jump from the 52 recorded in 2016.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
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