New York State Funeral Directors Association

Smoke from the funeral volley lingers and the sound of bag pipes fills the humid air.

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) observe a moment of silence as they commemorate fallen service members and their families during a burial at sea.

“Burials at sea are the disposition of cremains in urns or remains in caskets to the ocean,” said Cmdr. Dave Dinkins, the command chaplain, from Fort Worth, Texas.

“The earliest seafarers would commit their dead shipmates to the deep. Even today’s burial at sea, also known as an at-sea disposition, is an operational option during prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea.”

This Navy tradition executed by the John C. Stennis is offered as an honor to deceased service members and their immediate family members.

“Individuals eligible for the United States Navy Mortuary Affairs Burial at Sea Program include active duty members of the uniformed services, retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged from the service, dependent family members of active duty personnel, and retirees and veterans of the uniformed services,” said Dinkins.

The “executor” or “person authorized to direct disposition” for the deceased can provide paperwork and information to the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs office. Flag Folding Stennis

“The person authorized provides an official death certificate, plus a copy of the deceased service member's DD-214, to indicate their official termination of service,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Duprey, the principal assistant chaplain for the Command Religious Ministries Department, from Sheridan, Wyoming.

Once the official paper work is completed outside a command, the information and notification is sent to the John C. Stennis where CRMD begins to prepare.

“CRMD coordinates all the movements of the ceremony as well as the departments who will play any part in the ceremony,” said Duprey.

“We coordinate the scheduling of the event through strike operations, the ship’s movement [Navigation and officer of the deck], and the use of the hangar bay and aircraft elevator [Air Department]. We also gather the volunteers: the rifle squad [Weapons], the color guard, and the sound system technicians [Combat Systems].”

Sailors from all around the ship volunteered to help put the ceremony together. They also had the opportunity to volunteer to present urns and assist in their disposition to the sea.

“If a member of the command wishes to be involved in a burial at sea ceremony, it is very important that they be proactive to let their chain of command know of their interest,” said Duprey.

“They can contact the religious program specialist staff to indicate their interest. They may be asked to be part of the honor platoon, rifle squad, pall bearers or urn bearers.”

For more information on burials at sea, visit the Command Religious Ministries department.

The John C. Stennis is underway conducting routine operations in support of Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

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