Maj. Gen. John Rossi, who this summer was just days away from taking command of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, died by suicide, the Army announced Friday.
"This is a tremendous loss for the Rossi family and, indeed, our entire Army family," the Army said in a statement. "Maj. Gen. Rossi was a respected leader, valiant warrior and trusted friend who gave more than 33 years of service to this nation."
Rossi, 55, died July 31 in his on-post home at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He most recently served as the commanding general of the Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Before that, he served as the director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office in the Pentagon.
"We appreciate the kindness and support of our extended Army family as we have worked through these difficult days," Rossi's family said in a statement provided by the Army. "To the Army, he was Maj. Gen. Rossi. To us, he was John, husband, dad."
Rossi's family also asked for time and space to grieve in private.
They also asked for the Army to "continue to better understand suicide, and to help and treat those in need," the statement said. "For our family, this has been an incredibly painful time, and we ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately. Compassionate and confidential assistance is available."
Rossi's death came as a shock to the Army, as he was just days away from assuming command of Army Space and Missile Defense Command. He had arrived at Redstone Arsenal just days before his death, after relinquishing command of Fort Sill in July. He was to succeed Lt. Gen. David Mann as commander of SMDC.
In its statement, the Army said Rossi’s death is "a painful reminder of the tragedy of suicide as we continue to better understand its causes and warning signs."
"While we have focused our attention on young people – who make up the bulk of our force and for whom suicide is the second leading cause of death nationwide – the most recent data show middle-aged Americans are the fastest-growing at-risk population," the Army said. "Suicide knows no common race or age, gender or position."
Rossi grew up on Long Island, New York. He graduated from West Point in 1983 and was commissioned as an air defense artillery officer, according to a biography provided by the Army.
During his time in the Army, Rossi served in the United States, Korea, Germany, Southwest Asia and Iraq, commanding at every level from battery to the Fires Center of Excellence.
He is survived by his wife, Liz, and their three children and one grandchild.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.