USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The ship's ceremonial guard and crew members of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) stood at attention, May 30, to pay their respects during the ship's first burial at sea ceremony.
According to Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) Joe Swartout, Ceremonial Guard petty officer in charge, the ceremony honored 11 veterans and family members.
"Our purpose today is to continue one of our honored and sacred naval traditions -- the burial at sea," said Capt. James Symonds, commanding officer, USS Ronald Reagan. "It is a hallowed event that gives recognition of our final tribute to honor our nation's veterans."
One Ronald Reagan Sailor fulfilled her great grandfather's request for a burial at sea aboard an aircraft carrier.
Information Specialist 2nd Class Takiesha Waites, Operations department, committed to sea Paul Lester Waites, a U.S. Merchant Marine from January 1940 to October 1971. His burial was the first to be honored on board Ronald Reagan.
"It's fitting, as well as historic, that the first burial at sea from the decks of our ship is conducted by one of our own," said Symonds.
Satisfying her great grandfather's final request was an uphill struggle, and took years for Waites to accomplish.
"I felt a sense of closure because my family waited two years for this occasion," said Waites. "It was a blessing and privilege for the command to present me the opportunity to participate in the ship's first burial at sea.
The Ceremonial Guard spent many hours training to ensure the event was meaningful to all those involved and those who observed the ceremony, as well.
"The Ceremonial Guard trained for more than 500 hours, on and off duty, for this event," said Swartout. "Because the ceremony honored one of our shipmate's family members, we strived for greatness to express our respect."
"I'm always pleased to see our Sailors of the Ceremonial Guard," said Symonds. "They bring us honor while continuously exemplifying military dignity, professionalism and pride."
The event's coordination with Memorial Day made its timing especially appropriate.
"This ceremony exemplifies the high-standing traditions of the Navy," said Chaplain (Cmdr.) Steven Smith, command chaplain. "It's our honor, duty and privilege to respect these elder warriors' final request."
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.