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Former Fort Sill commander died by suicide, Army confirms

The death of the former Fort Sill commanding general has been ruled a suicide, making him the highest-ranking soldier to take his own life since 2000, when the Army began tracking suicides in its ranks, officials said.

Maj. Gen. John Rossi, 55, was found dead on July 31 at Redstone Arsenal, an Army installation near Huntsville, Ala.

Rossi left Fort Sill in July to head up the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Redstone Arsenal. Officials there said Rossi arrived on post about a week before his death, but hadn't yet taken command.

In a statement, Army officials called Rossi "a respected leader, valiant warrior and trusted friend who gave more than 33 years of service to this nation."

"We will continue to work with and teach our leaders to create an environment where it's OK to ask for help no matter your position or rank, and reinforce in all soldiers and leaders that it is their duty to lend a helping hand," an Army spokesperson said.

Rossi's death comes at a time when the Department of Defense are struggling to curtail suicides among active-duty military service members and veterans. In 2015, 266 active-duty troops died by suicide, according to a Defense Department quarterly suicide report released earlier this year.

Rossi served in South Korea, Germany, Iraq and southwest Asia, as well as several assignments in the United States, before coming to Fort Sill in 2014. He remained at the southwest Oklahoma post until he relinquished command at a ceremony in July.

His survivors include his wife, Liz, their three children and one grandchild. In a statement released by the Army, Rossi's family asked for privacy, and for the Army "to continue to better understand suicide, and to help and treat those in need."

"To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately," his family said. "Compassionate and confidential assistance is available."

A native of Long Island, New York, Rossi graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1983 and was commissioned as an air defense artillery officer.

In 2009, Rossi served as effects coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas, when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a shooting rampage. In the days after the shooting, Rossi acted as the post's spokesman, briefing journalists at a number of news conferences as details about the incident came to light.

Former Fort Sill commander found dead Sunday in Alabama (Published Aug. 2, 2016) Fallin: Rossi was 'a strong and capable leader' at Fort Sill (Published Aug. 2, 2016)

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›

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