News: Wasp performs burial at sea
By Petty Officer 1st Class Justin K. Thomas
USS Wasp Public Affairs
USS WASP, At Sea – Sailors attached to USS Wasp laid to rest five military veterans during a burial at sea, July 10, off the coast of Virginia in the Atlantic Ocean.
Wasp sailors committed the remains of four former sailors and one former Marine to the sea with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, under the direction of WASP’s commanding officer Capt. Brenda M. Holdener and command chaplain Cmdr. Michael Hall.
“I am honored and privileged to have presided over this solemn occasion,” said Holdener. “Team WASP came together to honor fallen shipmates. These shipmates, who have gone before us to defend freedom and democracy, deserve nothing less than perfection and utmost respect.”
For some of the Wasp’s crew members in attendance, this event was the first time to witness such a somber and unique occasion.
For one Wasp officer, the uniqueness of the occasion carried a bit further. Lt. Brian Freeman, the Wasp’s general medical officer also had the honor and the privilege to put his skills as a musician to good use by playing Taps on the trumpet for each of the burials at sea. “I thought it was great. This was my first burial at sea. I felt that it was a really nice way to honor veterans,” said Freeman.
Another participant, Petty Officer 1st Class Andre Bailey, who observed the ceremony from above on Wasp’s port wing wall, helped archive the event by taking photos. Bailey said he was glad he was able to pay respects by being involved in the time-honored Navy tradition.
“I felt it was a very proud moment for me,” said Bailey. “It was an experience I have never participated in while in the Navy, but that made it all the more worth while.”
During the ceremony, each service member was recognized individually by the command chaplain who read a scripture passage, a prayer, and a brief bio. The dead were then committed to the sea and honored with a 21-gun rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.”
“It was awe-inspiring and humbling to see each casket with remains laid onto the ship’s stern gate, lowered into the water, and wash away. It was one of the most reverent and honorable burial ceremonies I have ever witnessed,” said Chief Petty Officer Jerry Sekerak, Wasp’s public affairs officer, who helped videotape the ceremony for the families of the deceased.
According to the history.navy.mil website, “the tradition of burial at sea is an ancient one. As far as anyone knows this has been a practice as long as people have gone to sea. In earlier times, the body was sewn into a weighted shroud, usually sailcloth. The body was then sent over the side, usually with an appropriate religious ceremony. Many burials at sea took place as recently as World War II when naval forces operated at sea for weeks, and months at a time. Since World War II many service members, veterans, and family members have chosen to be buried at sea.”