United States Navy Chief Petty Officer • Line of Duty Death: February 19, 2023

On February 19, 2023, United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Michael Thomas Ernst passed away during a skydiving training accident.

Ernst was born and raised in Cohasset, Massachusetts, a coastal town south of Boston. He is one of six children born to his parents, Mary and Bob Ernst. As a child, he loved playing lacrosse, football, the drums, running, and hanging out with friends. Ernst and his family valued service for others, cooking meals for families for Thanksgiving and dropping off Christmas gifts to the less fortunate children around the Boston area. Ernst and his future wife, Megan, met during college and were friends, however, they did not date until after they graduated.

While on a trip to a Holocaust concentration camp, Ernst felt the despair and sense of evil that existed. He felt driven to make the world a better place and to stop evil that still exists. This is what inspired him to join the United States Navy in 2010. Ernst loved the sense of brotherhood in the military and the fulfillment he felt when participating in acts of service. His ultimate goals were to be a good teammate and make a positive difference in the world. Throughout his career, Ernst was awarded numerous medals, including Silver Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal with Combat Device, Army Commendation Medal, four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, three Combat Action Ribbons, and Presidential Unit Citation.

Currently, Megan lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her children. She plans to eventually return to work in financial operations. Her and her husband were involved in the community at the command, helping with house projects or helping when a family has a baby. The grief of losing her husband is still fresh, however, Megan enjoys watching her children getting excited about starting school and learning new things, such as how to ride a bicycle. Megan is grateful to Tunnel to Towers for lifting the financial burden of a mortgage off of her shoulders. She feels her husband in their home and it is a safe space for her and her children. Megan describes that owning her beloved home without a mortgage is the biggest gift she has ever received. Through it all, Megan would like people to know how kind her husband was, his passion for helping others when they were in need never went unnoticed, even though he was a quiet professional. He was able to balance family and military life and excel at both. His impact on many people will eternally be loved and missed.

United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Michael Thomas Ernst is survived by his wife, Megan, and his children.