PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) conducted a burial at sea in conjunction with a wreath-laying ceremony to honor veterans Jan. 29 near the site where the USS Lexington (CV 2) was sunk by the Japanese during the Battle of Coral Sea during World War II.
The ashes of 12 veterans, one Marine and 11 Sailors, were committed to the sea during the afternoon ceremony. The familiar 21-gun salute and the playing of "taps" marked the end of a military career for those being honored.
Making the service even more special was the fact that two of the deceased veterans had personal connections to Sailors aboard Reagan.
"It was a fitting tribute," said Navy Career Counselor 1st Class Valerie McNairy, whose grandfather, Fireman 3rd Class William F. Bolton, had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor aboard USS West Virginia (BB 48).
"He died Dec. 27, 2005. My dad mailed his ashes to the ship, and they arrived here the day we were leaving Australia. It was important for the family because no memorial was ever held for him. I'm glad I was able to do it for him," said McNairy.
Capt. Richard Butler, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 currently embarked aboard Reagan, said he also knew one of the 12 veterans honored during the service as a family acquaintance.
"He actually died about five years ago and was cremated," said Butler. "His daughter had his ashes, and she found within his effects some letters that he'd written stating that he'd wanted to have his ashes spread over the South Pacific, preferably either off of a Navy ship or Navy aircraft."
"When I ran into his daughter back around Thanksgiving, I told her I would see what I could do. We got his ashes on the ship and got him included in the ceremony," added Butler.
Two wreaths were also tossed into the ocean during the wreath-laying portion of the ceremony. One wreath was for the USS Lexington (CV 2), and one for the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho that was also sunk during the battle.
"It's celebrating the death of the men who were fighting for what they believed in, on both sides," said Chief Religious Programs Specialist Jason Zaun, who helped coordinate the event.
"We believed a certain way and our men died for our cause, and the Japanese believed their way and they died for what they believed in. It's good that we're celebrating both sides," said Zaun.
The ceremony concluded just as the sun was setting over the horizon. According to Butler, the ceremony was a fitting tribute to those who were honored during the service, both recently and during the Battle of Coral Sea.
"The ceremony was great, a traditional Navy at-sea ceremony, and it was very moving," said Butler. "The Sailors who volunteered to take part in the service also did a great job," he said.
Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier and is currently underway in the Western Pacific on its maiden deployment in support of the global war on terror and maritime security operations.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.