PACIFIC OCEAN – Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) laid to rest 17 service members and one civilian during the first burial at sea held aboard in more than two years, March 15.
Sixteen Sailors, one Soldier and one civilian were committed to the sea with full military honors after a ceremony officiated by the ship’s command chaplains and Commanding Officer Capt. Kevin P. Lenox.
“It’s our way of honoring our shipmates and providing a dignified service to their loved ones so they can have closure,” said Cmdr. Steve Mills, a native of Norman, Okla., and Nimitz’ command chaplain. “Serving in the military is a big deal with its years of sacrifice and this is our final way of saying thank you.”
The chaplain recognized each service member individually as they were laid to rest, including Nimitz’ own Machinist Mate 1st Class Kathryn Linde.
A member of Nimitz’s Reactor Department, Linde passed away July 2, 2016. A memorial service was held on board July 8, 2016.
For the Nimitz, this ceremony provides some closure to the family and friends of Petty Officer Linde. A final valediction to a close friend.
“As a Sailor, it’s tradition that we spend our lives protecting our country from the sea,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Harry Crawford, a native of Dallas and a member of the burial detail. “It’s only right that we return to it in the end. With commitment to the ocean, they’re with us wherever we go.”
The tradition of a burial at sea dates back to the days of sail. At the formation of the U.S. Navy, the body was sewn into a shroud of sail cloth and sent over the side with a religious ceremony.
Active-Duty service members, retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged, Military Sealift Command personnel and any dependents of active duty personnel may request a burial at sea.
Family members are given a letter of condolence as well as a national Ensign, photos of the ceremony and the navigational chart of the location of where the ceremony took place.
“They were exactly like us,” said Crawford. “Volunteering to serve their country when it needed them. It’s only right that we volunteer one last time for them. We’re here to serve them and honor those veterans and their sacrifice.”
Nimitz is currently underway to conduct Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), in preparation for an upcoming 2017 deployment.
Story by MC3 Samuel Bacon