ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The sea and the winds were strangely calm yesterday morning as Sailors on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) gathered in hangar bay three to pay last respects to a man whose final wish was to have his ashes scattered, from a ship, to the sea he cherished so much.
Struck with equal parts awe and curiosity, Harry S. Truman (HST) Sailors quietly united to honor Lt. Jesse Wilson Bamber, who fought heroically as a pilot in World War II and continued serving his country for 20 years until his retirement in 1964.
Credited for sinking a Japanese submarine, Bamber was shot down twice in combat but insisted on returning to action. He was truly a war hero who loved his country and the Navy.
From the time the 1MC made the announcement, “All hands bury the dead,” until the ceremony’s conclusion, the Sailors gathered in the hangar bay showed utmost respect and deepest appreciation for Bamber’s service in the military.
Bamber was not known personally by anyone on board HST, but as Lt. Timothy Oswald said, he was “one thread in the fabric of the Navy that we serve today and one stone in the foundation of freedom and liberty that our nation rests upon.”
As one of the most time honored and distinguished of Navy traditions, the burial at sea was a sight rarely witnessed by many Sailors.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” Personnelman 1st Class (SW) Chad Ewell said, “There is a lot of tradition behind it. This man must have loved the Navy and the sea to have wanted his ashes scattered from a ship.”
“This teaches the lesson that we [Navy] really are bigger than life,” said Cmdr. Lee Mandel, HST’s senior medical officer, who volunteered to render taps on his bugle for the ceremony. “I don’t think that there is anything more traditional or more “Navy” than having a burial at sea when a Sailor passes away.”
The tradition of the burial at sea is one that has been around since ancient times, as many cultures worldwide consider it a high respect to honor the death of war heroes.
Once a necessity during times of war, nowadays burials at sea are seldom needed but instead are used to honor the bravery and sacrifices of Sailors that have passed away.
“I heard about the burial and was curious to see it,” said Mess Management Specialist Seaman Keena Headen. “I think it’s traditions like these that keep our military strong because they help us remember where we came from.”
For the young Sailors that experienced the service, Oswald thinks that it was a positive and powerful event for them to have witnessed. “I think that the longer a Sailor is in the Navy, the more his love for the sea grows,” he said. “Nobody knew Bamber, yet people came to the ceremony because this is the kind of thing that touches the hearts of Sailors and that’s what being in the Navy is all about.”
For more USS Harry S. Truman news, go to www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75. For more information about HST, visit their website at www.navy.mil/homepages/cvn75.