New Hampshire soldier killed during training exercise in Florida

  • Staff Sgt. David Whitcher —Photo courtesy U.S. Army

Monitor staff
Friday, November 04, 2016

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David J. Whitcher, 30, of Bradford, died Wednesday during a Special Forces dive training exercise off the coast of Key West, Fla., the Army announced Friday.

The cause of his death remains under investigation.

Whitcher enlisted in the New Hampshire National Guard in 2008 as a carpentry and masonry specialist. He was deployed twice to Afghanistan as a member of the Guard, according to the statement.

“The New Hampshire National Guard joins the Special Forces community in mourning the loss of Staff Sgt. Whitcher. The state and the nation has lost a true warrior and outstanding non-commissioned officer,” said National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Gregory Heilshorn.

Whitcher volunteered for U.S. Army Special Forces training in 2014.

“Staff Sgt. Whitcher's death is a sobering reminder of the dangerous training our soldiers undertake to prepare themselves for the rigors of Special Forces. Our thoughts and prayers are with Staff Sgt. Whitcher's family and friends,” said Maj. Gen. James B. Linder, commander of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, where Whitcher was training at the time of his accident.

Whitcher was married to Victoria Whitcher and had a son, David Jr. Before Whitcher was stationed in Alaska, the couple together built a solar-powered, off-the-grid tiny house, which they towed 4,000 miles from the Granite State to Alaska. 

The decorated veteran’s awards include an Army Commendation Medal (3rd award), Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army said. 

Gov. Maggie Hassan said Friday in a statement that flags would stand at half-staff on the day of Whitcher’s memorial service, when announced. 

Both of New Hampshire’s senators issued statements on Whitcher’s death.

“His loss reminds us that all of those who serve risk their lives every day to keep us safe, a sacrifice that can never be repaid,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. “Joe and I extend our sincerest thoughts and prayers to his mother Kathy, his wife Victoria, and his son David during this difficult time.”

“I am deeply saddened to hear of Army Staff Sgt. David Whitcher's passing,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. “Having served two tours in Afghanistan with the New Hampshire National Guard, Staff Sgt. Whitcher rests among an elite group of men and women who have served their country to protect the ideas fundamental to our‎ democracy.”