Both the amphibious assault ship USS Essex and the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis held burial-at-sea ceremonies over the past week.
The Essex held a ceremony Sunday and the carrier crew buried six retired chief petty officers on April 1. The solemn memorials are a tradition that predates the U.S. Navy and reaches back to man’s earliest sea voyages, according to the Naval Historical Center.
The Navy holds the ceremonies under strict, detailed guidelines. Up until World War II, the practice arose out of necessity as ships often embarked for long periods.
But since then, many servicemembers, veterans and family members choose a sea burial, which is then honored by Navy ships, the historical center said.
The Stennis, based in San Diego, Calif., will typically commit about 20 remains to the sea during a deployment, Lt. j.g. Chad Dulac said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Monday, while the carrier was in the Pacific. With its current deployment half complete, the Stennis has performed about 45 burials — more than double the norm, Dulac said.
Those eligible for burial include active-duty servicemembers, retired and honorably discharged veterans and their family members, civilian Military Sealift Command personnel and other U.S. citizens chosen by the Chief of Naval Operations because of notable service or other contributions to the government, the Naval Historical Center reported.