Story by MC2 Heather Seelbach
Photo by MC3 Benjamin Crossley

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) laid to rest the remains of 30 military veterans and three spouses during a burial at sea ceremony Aug. 1 while conducting operations in the Pacific Ocean.

Under the direction of Commanding Officer Capt. Ronald Reis and command Chaplain Cmdr. Michael Greenwalt, Stennis Sailors committed the cremains with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

Many of the 33 honored were veterans of foreign wars, including several who served in World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) 2nd Class Peter Aguirre, an urn bearer for the ceremony, said he was honored to participate in his first burial at sea.

“It’s a part of our Naval heritage to conduct burials at sea,” said Aguirre. “Also, it’s part of the human experience, part of life.”

The families of those honored will be presented with a letter from the captain, a chart listing the latitude and longitude of where the remains were committed, and photographs of the ceremony.

The assistant leading petty officer for command religious ministries department, Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Ian Wakefield, considers it fulfilling to participate in the time-honored tradition of burial at sea.

“This is the final wish that veterans have given to the United States Government,” said Wakefield. “It is a very historic Navy tradition to bury the dead at sea, so for us to be able to partake in it is very important.”

Many who participated said the ceremony was a meaningful way to honor veterans while participating in one of the Navy’s most solemn traditions.

“Their struggle in life is over, but ours continues,” said Aguirre. “It just reminds us of the brevity of life and how we need to take it seriously and appreciate it for what it is.”

The participation of Stennis’ crew in the burial at sea played a crucial role in fulfilling the obligation to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes.