Friends of midshipman honor him at memorial

February 02, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Michael Ollove | JoAnna Daemmrich and Michael Ollove,Staff Writers

At a memorial service in his honor yesterday, the Naval Academy came together to create a cautionary tale out of the suicide of Midshipman Gil W. Greene.

"Learn to be better shipmates to one another," Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the academy's superintendent, said under the domed arch of the crowded chapel. "Be more aware of each other's needs. Be more aware of each other's concerns. Be more aware of each other's presence."

Dismissed from the academy for poor academic performance, Mr. Greene, 20, hanged himself in a shower stall Jan. 21. But it was not his failures that his friends and classmates dwelt upon yesterday. It was their own.

"I never really told him that when times were hard, I'd be there for him," said Midshipman Derick S. Armstrong, a fellow sophomore and friend of Mr. Greene. "I let him down . . . I wasn't there for him."

Midshipman Christopher A. Hart, who played varsity football with Mr. Greene, lamented that "our fallen teammate and shipmate" had masked his despair.

"In times of depression," Mr. Hart said to the more than 1,500 midshipman sitting silently in the chapel, "there is always someone to turn to."

After their remarks, each speaker paused with bowed head before a stand in the sanctuary. Next to a photograph of the dead midshipman were his white gloves and cap and a neatly folded U.S. flag.

Mr. Greene was buried Thursday, after an emotional service in the gymnasium at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange County, Calif., where he had been a star tailback and all-league player.

His suicide stands in stark contrast to the remembrances of his friends, teammates and professors. Like many of his classmates, he was a natural athlete and a leader. But also like many of them, he was reticent about the school's pressures and able to hide his troubles behind a good-natured smile.

"As far as I'm concerned, he was a typical midshipman," said Midshipman Troy Turner, a senior from Cleveland who is head of the academy's Black Studies Club. "Whatever it is -- you can get over it. You put on an air like nothing is bothering you. You tell everyone that everything's OK."

Lt. Dan E. Braswell, head of Mr. Greene's 25th Company, saw the young man the day before he died. Mr. Greene seemed eager for the paper work to be finished so he could leave, Lieutenant Braswell said. It had been two weeks since an academic board had voted to expel Mr. Greene, and he had decided not to appeal.

"At that time, he was fine," Lieutenant Braswell said.

After the service, Mr. Greene's parents, Josie and Jim Greene, LTC his brother Gaylord, a senior at West Point, and his sister Gaylind and niece Laivan, accepted condolences at nearby Dahlgren Hall.

Several hundred midshipmen filed through the receiving line. But the only sounds in the huge room were the hum of the heating system and the clinking of ice in glasses.

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