FORT SILL, OK (KSWO) – Fort Sill is mourning the loss of former Fort Sill Commanding General, Major General John Rossi, who died yesterday, less than two weeks after leaving Fort Sill for Alabama.
General Rossi served as Fort Sill Commander for two years, from June 2014 until July of this year. July 21 was General Rossi's change of command ceremony on post. It was his last formal act as commander before leaving for his next assignment. General Rossi was recently put in command of the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command-Army Forces Strategic Command at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
The cause of Rossi's death is still under investigation at this time. He leaves behind a wife, three children and one grandchild.
Though General Rossi was only here two years, he had a huge impact on the community. Community leaders, who consider themselves friends of Rossi, say he truly cared about the Lawton and Fort Sill and was a genuinely good person.
Former Fort Sill Commanding General Major General Lee Baxter says Rossi will be genuinely missed by the entire community. Major General Rossi served all around the United States, Korea, Germany, Southwest Asia and Iraq with the Air Defense Artillery.
"He really was a very out front, very polished, professional leader. He was the first non-field artilleryman to command Fort Sill, that had challenges which he met very adroitly, very professionally. He just really stepped up to be a true leader in the community which is what was expected and what he did," said Retired Major General Lee Baxter.
Baxter says he and Rossi became great friends over the years, rarely going more than a week or 10 days without talking.
"Actually, before General Rossi took command. we had him in our home for an Italian meal, and he and my wife had that in common very early on. So, just a great guy, a pace-setter in the community and he'll be sadly missed," Baxter said.
Debra Welch is the president and CEO of the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. She worked with Rossi on several occasions.
"He was very generous with his time, coming out and updating the community on what was going on on post. He wanted to work with us to keep things synchronized," Welch said.
Baxter says the ability to perfectly balance his responsibilities on Fort Sill with his responsibilities in Lawton is just one of the things that made Rossi so special.
"He did that very, very well and had a huge impact on Fort Sill. In the United States, in the country, in the Pentagon, he represented Fort Sill so well. So many of the community leaders will be absolutely dismayed with this, shocked as we all are by this and it just gives us a glimpse of our own mortality. A young, vibrant, very fit man was taken too soon," Baxter said.
There has already been an outpouring of support for the Rossi family.
Major General Rossi's new military home, Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, released a statement today saying, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Major General John G. Rossi's family. We share their grief during this time of loss. Our priority right now is to take care of the family, ensuring they have all the resources they need during this critical time."