A physics major and member of the campus radio station, Jay Michael Dixon, 21, joined the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis "because he loved his country dearly," his aunt Donna Hendley said yesterday.
But the third-year midshipman and devout Roman Catholic won't be able to realize his dream of serving in the armed forces. His body was found Saturday outside a campus dormitory. Authorities said they believe he fell from the building.
"The investigation is still ongoing," said Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, the academy's spokesman. "Where did he fall from, when, how. And until that investigation determines those facts, it would be premature to say."
Dixon's body was found shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday next to the fourth wing of Bancroft Hall, the campus dormitory for more than 4,000 midshipmen, academy officials said.
"He wanted to do this ever since he was a young child, a kid in grade school. He liked working with his hands, building things, gardening and loading ammunition by hand," said Hendley, who like Dixon is from the New Orleans suburb of Destrehan, La. "He was hoping to be part of the U.S. Marine Corps, but those assignments don't get made until the fourth year."
Dixon is survived by his brother, Gregory, 18, and his mother, Debra H. Dixon, Hendley said. Dixon's father is deceased.
The family was informed of Dixon's death Saturday evening by a chaplain and chief officer of the academy. They did not have details about how Dixon died, Hendley said. "We don't have enough information to make any statements about that," she said.
At the Naval Academy, Dixon was remembered as "a fine young man with a bright future as a naval officer," as well as a member of the Society of Physics Students and the academy's radio station, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the academy's superintendent, said in a written statement.
"A proud member of the Academy's 20th Company, he was well-liked and admired by all those who knew him," Rempt said. "Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to Midshipman Dixon's family and friends."
As other midshipmen returned to campus and learned of Dixon's death, chaplains and other counselors were available for counseling.
"They're in the process of finding out about this today," said Gibbons, the academy spokesman. "It's certainly a tremendous tragedy."
Four midshipmen have fallen from Bancroft Hall since 1988. Two of them died.
A freshman's plunge from a fifth-floor ledge in 1988 was ruled a suicide. Another plebe survived a fall from the building the following year. In 2000, a freshman fell 20 feet from a lower-level window, breaking both ankles.
Three years ago, an inebriated third-year midshipman fell 53 feet to his death from a fourth-floor window. His family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Navy, claiming it failed to make the windows of Bancroft Hall safe. The suit was dismissed in January by a federal judge who said the military is protected from being sued by soldiers and their families for active-duty injuries, military academy service included.
Since then, safety devices have been installed on windows that one could fall from, Gibbons said.