CATHOLIC CHAPLAIN COMMITS SUICIDE
NAVY CMDR DENNIS ROCHEFORD JUMPS OFF
BRIDGE - WAS MARINE LANCE CORPORAL IN
VIETNAM - BELOVED REVEREND "ON MEDICAL
LEAVE" - IRAQ WAR VETERAN SAID TO BE UNDER
"TREMENDOUS STRESS" - WOUNDED TWICE IN
COMBAT - ALSO HOLDER OF BRONZE STAR

Some stories are just painful to write. This is one of them.

We'll never know what went through the tortured mind of much-loved Catholic Chaplain (CMDR) Dennis Rocheford in those final moments as he stood at the rail of the Claiborne Pell Bridge in Newport, R.I. just before jumping to a watery death below.

But we do know his loss will be deeply felt by many who knew him as pastor of St. Ann Parish in North Oxford, R.I., as well as the military members he served as chaplain of the Newport, R.I. Naval Station.

WOUNDED TWICE AS MARINE LANCE CORPORAL IN VIETNAM

The 60 year-old cleric's whole life was one of service. First, as a Marine lance corporal in Vietnam, where he was wounded twice in Quang Tri Province and decorated with the Bronze Star. Then, years later, after college and seminary, as a Navy chaplain in Ramadi, Iraq.

Rocheford, a native of South Weymouth, Mass., was so popular, his masses at the Naval Academy were always "standing room only," said a friend. "He was always there for you. And now he's gone."

Navy officials are tight-lipped about what might have driven Rocheford to self-destruction, but they did acknowledge that he had been on "medical leave" and was under a "tremendous amount of stress." That is not to say he was under investigation or accused of any wrong-doing.

NO HINT OF ANY WRONG-DOING AT THIS TIME

We want to emphasize we have no indication, at this time, of any problem that way. As you will see in our related stories box below, other Navy chaplains have not been without fault.

All investigators know for sure is, on the morning of Sept. 10, at around 0800 hours, Chaplain Rocheford parked his car in the center lane of the Newport bridge, was seen slowly walking to the rail, stood there for a moment, and then went over the side into eternity.

Commissioned an officer and chaplain in 1987, CMDR Rocheford had served at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., and aboard the USS Wasp, a naval amphibious craft.

Family members ask those who wish to honor Chaplain Rocheford's memory, to make donations in his name to the Wounded Warrior Project, 7020 AC Skinner Parkway, Suite 100, Jacksonville, Fla. 32256. You can also go to www.woundedwarriorproject.org). Thank you.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: To any fanatics with extra time on your hands, who wish to write in and tell us a Catholic priest committing suicide is a "mortal sin," don't waste your time or ours. Save your piety for when you get to God's judgment seat. And consider yourself fortunate you'll be accorded more mercy than you, in all your sanctimonious self-righteousness, deigned to show this chaplain's troubled soul.]

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