“Navy SEAL Mike Ernst was a courageous warrior, loving husband, devoted father, and steadfast teammate to his fellow SEALs,” Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), a retired Navy rear admiral tweeted Friday.
“Mike tragically died in a military parachute training accident while serving his country,” Jackson added.
Jackson included a touching photo of the father-of-two with his wife, children, and dog, encouraging people to consider donating to the sailor’s family.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst died following a “military freefall training accident,” on Sunday, February 19, Lt. Cmdr. Kara Handley, a Navy spokeswoman, told Military.com. Handley also told the outlet Ernst died in Marana, Arizona, and that his death is under investigation.
Ernst was pronounced dead at Banner University Medical Center near Tuscon after the training, Naval Special Warfare Command told NBC News in a statement.
Details are scant, and Naval Warfare Command has declined to comment further, telling outlets “It would be inappropriate to comment further on the ongoing investigation until complete.”
Ernst, who was based in Hampton Roads, Virginia, was a Chief Special Warfare Operator, WTKR reported. He had been in the Navy since 2009, and was assigned to the East Coast special warfare unit for the bulk of his service, Military Times reported.
Ernst earned a Silver Star for actions in combat, according to USA Today. The Massachusetts native had two children, ages two and five. He graduated as a SEAL in 2012.
Ernst was “an exceptional teammate … who applied his talents and skills towards some of our nation’s hardest challenges, while selflessly mentoring his teammates,” Rear Admiral Keith Davids, head of Naval Special Warfare Command told Military Times.
“Mike and his family will always be part of the NSW family, and he will never be forgotten,” Davids also said in his statement.
Military Freefall School covers “all aspects of military freefall parachuting,” according to the United States Army’s description of its joint forces training school. Such training involves courses that teach HALO (high altitude-low opening) and HAHO (high altitude-high opening) techniques and also includes platform, hands-on and actual parachute operations.
“The Navy SEAL Foundation team was very saddened to learn of the loss of a warrior and teammate,” Navy SEAL Foundation said in a tribute to Ernst. They describe his wife, his two children, and NSW community as “devastated by this loss.”
The NSF is accepting donations to directly support Ernst’s family.
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