3 Deaths in 3 Months: Parris Island Loses 2 Instructors, Clerk After String of Recent Losses

by Braxton Taylor

Three Marines have died at Parris Island since July, including two instructors at the South Carolina base, according to the Marine Corps. Two of the deaths occurred within days of each other last week.

The service said the causes of death are still under investigation — including Staff Sgt. Courtland Bateswind, 27, who was found in his residence on July 5 — and none of them occurred during combat or training. Sgt. Yliana Hernandez, 25, was found Friday and Cpl. Angel Acosta III, 25, was found Sept. 20, both in their residences.

Bateswind was a drill instructor at the base’s recruit training regiment. Hernandez was a Marine instructor of water survival assigned to Support Battalion, and Acosta was a training clerk assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion.

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“The loss of any Marine is tragic and felt deeply within our ranks,” Maj. Philip Kulczewski, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, told Military.com on Tuesday.

“The causes of death are currently under investigation,” he added. “To protect the integrity of the investigative process, no other information is available at this time.”

The Island Packet was first to report the string of deaths Monday.

Military.com reached out to Acosta’s family and friends through a GoFundMe set up in his name, but did not hear back by publication. The GoFundMe was originally meant to cover the cost of his funeral, but it appears that the Marine Corps is funding the arrangements, according to an updated post.

Now, the accrued funds will be used as a trust for Acosta’s son and any additional expenses that his family may incur after his death.

“Throughout life you’ll encounter many people who affect you in different ways. Some will cheer you up just with their smile and charisma. Some will push you to be better just by seeing the effort and passion they demonstrate on a day to day basis,” the GoFundMe post read, in part.

“Angel showed us all these emotions and morals every single day,” it said.

Military.com attempted to contact Hernandez’s family, but was unsuccessful. Military.com contacted Bateswind’s mother, but she was unavailable to speak at the time of publication.

The deaths of the Marines, two of whom were instructors, mark the latest tragedies in what was a tumultuous five months for the Corps and its Training and Education Command, which oversees recruit training depots and other Marine-making hubs.

The known Training and Education Command deaths began in April when Pfc. Noah Evans, 21, died during a physical training test at boot camp. In June, another Marine recruit died after collapsing during a training event, according to a Navy Safety report.

In August, Lance Cpl. Joseph Whaley was killed by negligent discharge roughly four weeks into a course at the Marine Corps School of Infantry-West.

Sgt. Jaen Deshun Davis, 24, who was assigned to a reserve unit in Michigan, was found deceased in his car at Quantico, Virginia, earlier this month while attending the Marine Corps University. The service did not release a cause of death.

Excluding private vehicle crashes and recreational fatalities, the Marine Corps is known to have lost at least 14 total Marines outside of combat since April, including in two aviation mishaps and when three Marines were found deceased in a car near Camp Lejeune, N.C. Half of those deaths have been categorized as happening while on duty. On-duty fatalities tripled last year after a brief lull in 2021, according to a recently published Navy safety report.

The report does not appear to include suicides.

Leadership within Training and Education Command saw significant turnover over this summer. Since June, the command has dismissed or reassigned five top Marines for various reasons, including alleged domestic violence, striking two teenage pedestrians with a vehicle during an alleged drunk driving incident and “loss of trust and confidence.”

Three of those leaders held the top-most positions in the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island, the unit that Staff Sgt. Courtland Bateswind belonged to at the time of his death.

— Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on X @df_lawrence.

Related: Negligent Discharge Killed Marine Training at Camp Pendleton Last Month, Navy Report Indicates

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