Wednesday, the 1st Cavalry Division announced the passing of its missing Soldier, Sgt. Elder Fernandes. It is with profound sadness the 1st Cavalry Division confirms Sgt. Elder Fernandes was found deceased in Temple Tuesday.
Fernandes, 23, whose home of record is listed as Brockton, Massachusetts, was found near Lake Polk in Temple. He entered the Army in September, 2016, as a 74D, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist, and has been assigned to the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Cav. Div. Sustainment Brigade, since April 2019.
Fernandes’ awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
“The Wagonmaster family is heartbroken with the news of Sgt. Fernandes’ passing,” Col. Patrick Disney, commander of the 1st Cav. Div. Sust. Bde., said. “Since his absence was reported, we have made a significant, concerted effort to search for him throughout Central Texas. We are grateful for the outpouring of support and assistance we received as we worked to find him. We send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”
Fernandes was last seen in Killeen on Aug 17. When he was reported absent on Aug. 18, Soldiers from his unit initiated a thorough search for him, both on and off post, while cooperating with the Killeen Police Department and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, also known as CID, in an attempt to find him. The unit, with the division commanding general’s oversight, distributed his photograph, searched motor pools, parking lots, barracks and headquarters buildings. Members of his unit visited local hotels and hospitals throughout Central Texas trying to find him as they expanded their search efforts.
The unit took every precaution to protect Fernandes following his report of abusive sexual contact, including ensuring his reassignment he requested, enabling his constant interaction with his sexual assault response coordinator, and ensuring his close supervision while in a field environment prior to his disappearance. The unit also ensured he was not bullied and hazed following his report. The unit is cooperating with local authorities as this incident remains under investigation.
The division will continue to support the Fernandes family during this difficult time and requests everyone respects their privacy during this time of grief.