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Navy identifies USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor who died from COVID-19

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The Navy has identified the sailor assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt who died from COVID-19 as Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The 41-year-old died on Monday at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. Thacker’s spouse, an active-duty service member stationed in San Diego, was flown to Guam and was by his side at the time of his death, a Navy news release said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” Capt. Carlos Sardiello, Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “Our number one priority continues to be the health and well-being of all members of the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group and we remain steadfast in our resolve against the spread of this virus.”

Thacker tested positive for the disease on March 30 and was later admitted to an intensive care unit at the Naval hospital in Guam after being found unresponsive while in isolation.

Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr

Thacker had served in the Navy for more than 22 years after enlisting on Dec. 30, 1997. Following his initial training, Thacker reported to the USS Constellation (CV-64), where he served until 2001, according to his service record. Thacker reported to the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Dec. 2019, though it wasn’t his first time aboard. He previously served on the T.R., as well as the USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).

Thacker was promoted to chief petty officer in Aug. 2013. His awards include two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and the Navy “E” Ribbon.

“We mourn the loss of the Sailor from USS Theodore Roosevelt who died today, and we stand alongside their family, loved ones, and shipmates as they grieve,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in a statement earlier this week.

“This is a great loss for the ship and for our Navy.”

The Navy has tested roughly 94% of the 4,800-member crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for the virus, with more than 600 testing positive so far. Roughly 60% of those sailors showed no symptoms of the virus, suggesting that stealth transmission “is this adversary’s secret power,” Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the Navy, told Reuters.

“It has revealed a new dynamic of this virus: that it can be carried by normal, healthy people who have no idea whatsoever that they are carrying it,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told NBC’s “Today” morning show on Thursday.

The Theodore Roosevelt remains stationed pierside in Guam with a skeleton crew still aboard, as thousands of sailors have been removed and placed into quarantine. Sailors still on the ship are almost finished deep cleaning the ship in a reported “bleach-a-palooza,” according to Business Insider.

The ship’s former commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, also remains in quarantine after testing positive for the virus. Crozier was relieved of command on April 2 after a letter he wrote to Navy leadership leaked to the media, in which he pleaded for his sailors to be evacuated from the ship.

“Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in a memo. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

The Navy has not ruled out the possibility that Crozier could be reinstated.