USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) paid their final respects to a fallen service member by committing his body to the deep in a somber and traditional ceremony known as a burial at sea July 12.
Overlooking the ocean in what was some believed was a truly beautiful scene, a crowd of Sailors said their final goodbyes to Chief Boiler Technician Joseph Lucas who retired after 30 years of service. He was a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War.
Lucas worked as a boiler technician aboard five different ships, and because his last two ships were aircraft carriers, his widow requested that the burial take place aboard a carrier. Lucas retired in 1961 after a career of faithful service. During his life, he saw two of his grandsons enter the Navy as well, one a chief and the other a seaman apprentice.
The burial at sea is a long-standing naval tradition which is used to render honors to deceased Sailors as they reach their final resting places.
"This tradition of honoring the dead goes back long before the United States Navy," said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Mode, one of the ship's chaplains who presided over the ceremony. "Seafarers have buried the dead in the deep for many centuries."
Mode said burial at sea is an honor the military extends to many of service member.
"Any veteran who has an honorable discharge can be buried at sea," said Mode. "It's a beautiful honor to be able to give to a person."
For many Sailors, an at-sea burial is a fitting way to commemorate one's life journey, and Mode said Lucas desired to be put to rest in the same waters where he had served.
"For a Sailor, especially a Sailor who has been out to sea and served on many ships, I would say that attachment to the sea extends beyond," said Mode. "In his last days, that's what he wanted to do; he wanted to be buried at sea."
Perhaps one of the most moving parts of a burial at sea is the 21-gun salute, when seven Sailors line up in formation and fire three shots each over the open water.
"It's three volleys of fire, and that's probably the most traditional aspect," Mode said. "It acts as a final salute to our fellow Sailors."
Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Chris Rommel, who works in G-2 weapons department and leads Truman's rifle squad, coordinated the 21-gun salute.
"The rifle squad provides the 21-gun salute for the fallen and his family members. It represents showing respect for the fallen," Rommel said. "We only do it out to sea to help lay that person's spirit or soul to rest."
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Sailors walked away with a solemn sense of reverence. One of the Navy's own was laid down with the dignity and respect deserving of a Sailor who has given so much in the service of his country.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.