The Tragedy of Military Suicide: Crossfit Krypton Holds Memorial Workout for Member’s Son

January 2, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Robert Decker
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Kody Decker didn’t need the Navy. He chose the Navy. He was just 22 years old when he took his own life.

  • “No parent should ever bury their kids. That’s a common phrase and it’s so true,” said Robert Decker, the father of Kody, who leaves behind a heartbroken family, including a wife and young son named Myles. 

Kody was one of four Navy sailors to commit suicide in less than a month of eachother and all were assigned to the same Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia. Robert is a member at CrossFit Krypton, which hosted a memorial workout to honor Kody and build a trust fund for his grandson Myles. 

Robert proudly described his son as a bright, young individual and a “smart cookie.” Kody’s older brother Kyle enlisted in the Navy and Kody wanted the same thing. Robert said he and his wife acknowledged the risk of death when enlisting in the military, but never thought it would manifest the way that it did. 

  • “Of course we know there is that potential. But you expect it from a training accident or an accident on the ship or at war. You don’t expect it to come from within, where there is poor leadership, poor communication. Personally, it’s almost like abuse from certain elements within the ranks,” said Robert, who is now pushing for accountability from elected officials. 
  • “It’s your flesh, that’s your blood, that’s your legacy, and part of my legacy has been ripped away. And I don’t want other people to have to endure that if at all possible.”

Robert explains that Kody was assigned to the USS Bataan, but was transferred to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) after checking himself into the Naval psych ward for depression in August. 

Sailors are put in MARMC if they are on limited duty after suffering an injury or dealing with a mental health issue. He adds, based on what Kody had told him, he didn’t have enough mental health resources from MARMC and wasn’t given enough support from leadership to get through his depression. 

  • “I know he was disgusted. When he got back from his deployment, he was disgusted with the Navy and he told me that ‘they’ve taken any desire that I have to do anything for the Navy out of me’,” said Robert. 

On the day that Kody committed suicide he had lunch with his father, Myles, and Jude, his now widow. Robert says Kody left his family a video on his phone that evening when the incident occurred. 

  • “That was my boy,” said Robert. “And there’s nothing I could do.” 

While a 2021 report on military suicides showed numbers have decreased, the rates have been on a steady incline since 2011, according to the Defense Department. 

The Annual Report on Suicide in the Military found 519 service members died by suicide in 2021, which was down from 582 in 2020, according to the report. Additionally, the agency found suicide rate among active-duty troops decreased from 28.7 per 100,000 in 2020 to 24.3 per 100,000 in 2021. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said at the time the numbers were encouraging, however “we recognize we have more work to do.”

In early December, MARMC Commanding Officer, Captain Jay Young, confirmed the deaths of the four sailors. He issued a statement via Twitter, offering condolences to the family.  

  • “One suicide is too many and the leadership team and I are taking a proactive approach to support the entire MARMC team, improve mental fitness, and managage the stress of its Sailors. We remain fully engaged with our Sailors and their families to ensure their health and well-being, and to ensure a climate of trust that encourages Sailors to ask for help,” said Young, in a series of tweets

When asked to comment on the circumstances surrounding the deaths, Chris Wyatt, public affairs specialist at MARMC said in a statement: “At this time we are not in a position to speculate, as the causes of these deaths remain under investigation.”

Robert says he has a lot of anger, but a place that has helped him deal with his grief is CrossFit Krypton. 

  • “For me, it’s been that outlet for me. I’ve got grief, I’ve got anger, I’ve got it all, the whole spectrum inside of me. And just for that moment in time, I can just focus on the task at hand which is what CrossFit has you do, shut your mind off and just move and get the work done with that objective.”
  • “I don’t wallow in self pity, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’ll let it creep in, right now. I’ll let it creep in, wrap it back up and go back to work.” 

The gym, owned by CrossFit legend Ben Smith, hosted a memorial workout for Kody that served as a fundraiser for his son Myles. 

  • “As a community, as a gym it’s like we can only go and do so much, but whatever we can do we want to be able to help,” said Smith, who won the 2015 CrossFit Games. “We want to be there as a crutch they can lean on, a place that they can come and have a great stress release from their day or whatever that is.” 

The workout to memorialize Kody was: 

  • 22 rounds with a partner 
  • 9 burpees 
  • 8 ground to overhead (95/65#)
  • Followed by 2000 meters on the rower 

The rounds represent Kody’s life and the other numbers represent his birthday. Workouts memorializing service members have been a fixture in CrossFit, even appearing at the Games.

  • “It’s one of those things that you just can’t fathom doing a workout with your own bloods numbers. So it hit home pretty solid,” said Robert, who adds that he called on Kody throughout the workout. “I will say he kicked my butt.” 

Robert adds, he was humbled by the turnout and is grateful to the Smith family for holding the event. “It was the fact that they did it for my grandson as well. And that more than anything means the world because that poor boy is not going to know his dad.” 

The incident at MARMC was preceded by a similar occurrence on the USS George Washington, where it was reported that seven sailors died by suicide between 2019 and 2022 while the ship was undergoing intense maintenance. 

While the Defense Department has said it plans to review suicide prevention and response activities, Robert isn’t sitting on the sidelines. He plans to meet with his state’s government officials and push for accountability and action. 

  • “I want them to own the fact that they’ve got a problem and that they are going to address it because here’s my goal. I know it’s not 100% attainable, but I don’t want parents of future sailors to live this nightmare,” said Robert. “I’m fighting for them. It’s too late for us. I’m fighting for them because you don’t know until you know.”

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

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