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Loss of 3 Marines in recent weeks at Parris Island is ‘felt deeply within our ranks’

A road sign in Parris Island, SC. (DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Three Marines have died at Parris Island in the last two-and-a-half months — including two in last week — but the Marine Corps is not releasing the causes.

On Friday, Sgt. Yliana Hernandez, a 25-year-old water survival instructor from Volusia, Fla., was found dead at her residence. During her Marine Corps service, Hernandez, who was married, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and two Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals.

In 2020, Hernandez was featured on a video on Marine TV called “promoting resiliency.” In it she talked about growing up in a small town where there was not much to do and being rebellious. She climbed towers around the baseball field and once filled the high school cafeteria with balloons full of crickets. But while others saw rebelliousness, the Marines saw Hernandez’s fearlessness and said, “this is good, we can work with this. They said, ‘we can make you more.'”

“But I tell you this I’m not afraid of being myself,” Hernandez says in the video. “I strive to show the world what I am and not what it wants me to be.”

On Wednesday, Cpl. Angel Acosta III, was found dead at his residence on Lady’s Island by the Beaufort Count Sheriff’s Office, Marines said. Acosta was a training clerk assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion. The 25-year-old McAllen, Texas native leaves behind a one-month-old child.

Acosta was known for his smile and charisma and compassion, effort and passion and perseverance and sense of humor.

During his time in the Marines, Acosta earned the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

On July 5, Staff. Sgt Courtland Bateswind, 27, a drill instructor assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, was found deceased at his residence aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Bateswind was from Riverside, Calif. He was married with no children. He won the National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Bateswind was among 600 drill instructors who are charged with shaping about 20,000 recruits who come to Parris Island into Marines.

The Marines would not release the cause of the deaths, saying it needed to protect the integrity of the investigations, said Major Phillip Kulczewski, a Marine spokesman at Parris Island. The Beaufort County Coroner’s Office would not release information on the death of Acosta, whose death occurred off the base.

“The loss of any Marine is tragic and felt deeply within our ranks,” Kulczewski

The latest deaths at Parris Island bring the total since 2021 to at least eight. Previous causes have been death by suicide and training related but in some cases the Marines did not release specific causes. The number of suicide deaths across all military branches during the first quarter of 2023 was 94, up from 75 during the same time frame in 2022, according to the Department of Defense Quarterly Suicide Report. In the case of these three recent deaths, no cause has yet been released.

Previous deaths at the base included:

— On June 12, Marshall Hartman of Michigan died just a few days after arriving at the Recruit Depot in what the Marines described as a non-training incident.

— Noah Evans, a 21-year-old from Decatur, Georgia, died April 18 during a physical fitness test.

— In September 2021, 21-year-old Pvt. Anthony Muñoz, of Lawrence, Mass., died after falling from a balcony in an “apparent suicide,” MCRD Parris Island officials previously told the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.

— Pfc. Brandon Barnish, 26, was found dead at the training depot, on Sept. 29, 2021. Barnish, from Evans, Georgia, had graduated from Parris Island with the Delta Company on May 14 and was recovering from an injury before continuing with the next step of training, a Parris Island spokesperson said. A cause of death was not identified.

— In June 2021, Pfc. Dalton Beals, 19, of Pennsville, New Jersey, died during the Crucible, the final training event before recruits become Marines. Staff Sgt. Steven Smiley was charged with negligent homicide in Beals’ death but was found not guilty following a July trial.


(c) 2023 The Island Packet

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