Fourth sailor to die from the coronavirus in February remembered as 'amazing father,' 'treasured friend'

In a Jan. 19, 2017 photo, Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Justin Huf takes the chief petty officer exam aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan. The Navy said Huf died of the coronavirus at Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital on Feb. 22, 2021.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 24, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Virginia-based sailor who died from the coronavirus earlier this week was a 39-year-old from California, the Navy announced Wednesday.

Chief Petty Officer Justin Huf, a hull technician, died Monday in the intensive care unit at Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital, according to the Expeditionary Strike Group 2.

Last Tuesday, Huf had symptoms of the virus and was isolated. On Friday, he tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized the next day, according to the Navy.

Huf was assigned to Assault Craft Unit 4 based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach at the time of his death. His unit operates air-cushioned landing craft, which are high-speed vehicles that transport people, weapons and equipment from ship to shore, according to the Navy.

“Our deepest condolences are with the family, friends and shipmates of Chief Petty Officer Huf during this extremely difficult time,” according to the statement.

Sailors who had been in contact with him have been notified and are taking precautions, according to Navy officials.

In the wake of his death, friends and family took to social media to share photos and pay tribute to Huf.

"Heartbroken doesn’t even touch what we’re feeling today," wrote friend Lindsey Wisely on Facebook. "We lost [...] the most amazing father to these babies, a treasured friend, and devoted husband."

"Thank you Justin Huf for nothing but positive experiences during my time on the Mahan," wrote fellow sailor Kyle Hodges. "I wish the Navy had more leaders and more people like you."

Huf was the fifth active-duty sailor to die since the pandemic began nearly a year ago, increasing the total number of service members who have died due to the virus to 23.

Petty Officer 1st Class Marcglenn L. Orcullo, 42, an aviation support equipment technician aboard the USS Wasp, died of coronavirus complications Feb. 12 at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Andrew-Godfredson Myers, 26, of the USS Tennessee ballistic-missile submarine, died Feb. 4 at University of Florida Hospital in Jacksonville. Chief Petty Officer Herbert Rojas, 50, was a staff instructor at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Ill., when he died Feb. 2 at his home. Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, was a sailor assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier when he died April 13 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam.

Huf joined the Navy in November 2003 and achieved the rank of chief petty officer, or E7, last March, according to his service record.

His previous assignments include the maintenance/support company for the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land in Guam, Assault Craft Unit 5 based at Camp Pendleton in California, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan. Huf arrived at his last unit in 2018.

His military awards include the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist badge, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, three Good Conduct Medals, two Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medals, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Stars and Stripes editor Kat Bouza contributed to this report.

Twitter: @caitlinmkenney