1st US Service Member Dies of Coronavirus

  • Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok
    Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok (Courtesy his family)
  • Members of the New Jersey Army National Guard are taught procedures at a COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Site.
    FILE PHOTO – Members of the New Jersey Army National Guard are taught procedures at a COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., March 23, 2020 (U.S. Air National Guard/Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

A member of the New Jersey Army National Guard has died from the coronavirus, the Defense Department announced Monday.

The guardsman, who tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalized since March 21, died Saturday, the Pentagon said in a statement. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy identified the guardsman as Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok.

"I'm heartbroken by the loss of @NJNationalGuard Captain Douglas Linn Hickok to coronavirus," Murphy tweeted Monday. "He was a drilling guardsman and physician's assistant ...Our thoughts are with his wife, children, and their family."'

A member of Hickok's family told Military.com that he was born in Oklahoma and raised in California, and had been living most recently in Pennsylvania. He was 57.

"Today is a sad day for the Department of Defense as we have lost our first American service member -- active, reserve or Guard -- to coronavirus," said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

"This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community," Esper said in the statement. "The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19."

It was not immediately clear if the guardsman had been participating in duties across the New York tri-state area to mitigate coronavirus outbreak response.

Related: The Military's Coronavirus Cases: The Latest Rundown

The New Jersey National Guard did not immediately respond to queries.

As of Monday morning, more than 14,830 Air and Army National Guard members are supporting the COVID-19 crisis response across all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington D.C., according to the Guard.

"This response isn't just about delivering food or supporting COVID test centers," said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "It's about protecting our children, parents and grandparents. Our nation is looking to the National Guard to help and we can't let them down."

Under a modified rule, Esper on March 27 accelerated the process by which the Pentagon can authorize the use of guardsmen under Title 32 of the U.S. Code. That authority allows them to perform tasks authorized by the federal government, but still allows management by the state government.

The move authorized "a federal status for some National Guard missions in states and territories which have federal emergency declarations stemming from the pandemic," according to an Army release. "The Stafford Act enables the president to declare emergencies when incidents threaten to overwhelm local or state governments' ability to respond, allowing access to federal money."

The guardsman's death marks the military's third confirmed death from the coronavirus. A contractor and a military dependent died of the virus in recent weeks, according to the Pentagon.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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