The parents of a sailor missing from the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and feared to have gone overboard Thursday have identified him as 20-year-old Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Ethan Goolsby of San Antonio.
Goolsby graduated from basic training in January and the TR was his first assignment, according to his parents, Kelly and Michelle Goolsby.
A Navy official confirmed Friday that Goolsby is the missing sailor, but a multiship search for the sailor continues and no further official information has been released.
A U.S. 3rd Fleet statement released Thursday night announced that a sailor was missing from a command-wide muster after a ship lookout spotted a sailor in the water at about 7:30 a.m. that morning.
The Goolsbys said they were notified about their only child going missing on Thursday evening, about 12 hours later.
The parents said they were told a second lookout confirmed Goolsby was in the water, and that a smoke signal and flotation device were thrown his way.
But answers for the Goolsbys regarding what happened to their child remain painfully lacking.
“As far as they’re telling us, nobody saw him go over, so they don’t know where he fell from,” Michelle Goolsby said. “They wouldn’t tell us if he was floating, if he was struggling, if he was moving. They didn’t know.”
A casualty assistance officer came to their house last night, the Goolsbys said.
TR left San Diego Monday for its second deployment of the year.
The ship got back in July from a harrowing cruise that saw roughly a quarter of the crew get infected with COVID-19.
It was operating in waters off Southern California when Goolsby went missing.
The parents said they are new to the military, and want more information from the ship regarding search efforts and what happened.
“We need the support right now from the other Navy moms and parents,” Michelle Goolsby said.
“They told us (the Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is investigating and they really can’t share any more information at this point,” she said. “We know there’s been a lot of things that’s happened on that ship, with the COVID, and I have questions.”
“Is there netting around the ship?” she continued. “We keep hearing all kinds of different things. We just want updates. What are they doing today?”
Goolsby surprised his parents with a visit home in October and stayed until Nov. 2, they said.
He then had to quarantine for five weeks upon returning to San Diego and told his parents that sometimes meals were not delivered to his room.
At one point, he told them he returned to the ship but someone tested positive for COVID so he had to go back into quarantine.
The junior sailor also worried about getting out of shape while confined to the room for weeks on end.
Kelly Goolsby said they would exchange videos of themselves doing pushups.
“He was worried about being ready because of quarantine,” the father said. “He felt rusty.”
Goolsby called his parents over the weekend and said they were moving him to a night shift, they said.
He asked his parents to send him a care package, and requested Chex Mix in particular.
“He did say he was exhausted,” Michelle Goolsby said.
They encouraged their son and told him he would adjust to the night shift.
“We were just trying to keep him positive, so we can stay positive,” Michelle Goolsby said.
As they wait for more answers from the Navy about what’s happened to their only son, they wonder if he had just finished his night shift when he went missing.
“We don’t know what happened that morning,” Michelle Goolsby said. “He’s our only child. We’re in the pandemic. Christmas. So many things complicate it.”
Goolsby joined the Navy on a five-year contract, and hoped to perhaps get his education and become an officer, his parents said.
“We’ve had some family in the Navy,” Kelly Goolsby said. “He always had a real positive view of the Navy.”
The search for Goolsby continues today, with TR and several other ships taking part.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.