Three sailors assigned to the carrier USS George H. W. Bush have died by suicide in just one week, bringing the total number of suicides in that command to five in the last two years.
Navy confirms three USS George H. W. Bush sailors have committed suicide in the month of September, which is D.o.D. suicide prevention month. Navy says Bush has lost a total of five sailors to suicide in past two years. #13NewsNow pic.twitter.com/g8hLDVqf87
— Mike Gooding 13News Now (@13MikeGooding) September 24, 2019
The USS George H.W. Bush’s commanding officer, CAPT Sean Bailey, shared confirmation of the suicides in a Facebook post.
None of the three most recent suicides appeared to be related and none occurred on board the carrier, which is currently docked in Norfolk, Virginia, according to a report from the Navy Times.
One of the suicides occurred on Sept. 14, and two on Sept. 19: Chief Electronics Technician (Nuclear) James Harold Shelton, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Vincent Michael Forline and Airman Ethan Thomas Lee Stuart.
Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Robert John Bartulewicz III committed suicide on July 16, and prior to that the most recent suicide of a USS George H.W. Bush crew member took place in late 2017.
Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, spokeswoman for Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, emailed a statement to the Navy Times indicating that the suicides were not being treated as linked despite the fact that two occurred on the same day.
“The sailors did not serve in the same departments, and there does not appear to be a connection between their deaths,” Cragg said. (RELATED: Russian Fighter Jet Buzzes US Navy Plane In ‘Unsafe’ Intercept, Navy Says)
The issue is a major concern within the military — in fact, the month of September is the Department of Defense’s Suicide Prevention Month. A recent report focusing on veteran suicides indicated the severity of the issue, finding that the number of veterans to die by suicide between 2008 and 2017 outstrips the number of Americans killed in Vietnam.
More veterans have died by suicide since 2008 than U.S. troops killed during the Vietnam Warhttps://t.co/s46R9RCIyv
— Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) September 24, 2019
Cmdr. Cragg indicated that the Navy was taking the situation very seriously, adding that a special psychiatric rapid intervention team — SPRINT — had been brought on board in addition to Chaplains, psychologists and counselors.
“As a crew and as a family, they are grieving. They are supporting each other, and are comforting those in need,” Cragg said.