USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (NNS) -- A World War II veteran was honored by Sailors on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a burial-at-sea ceremony Dec. 10.
Seaman 1st Class John Ivan Fox joined the Navy at age 17 after obtaining permission from his father. He served on active duty for two years on board the light aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26) and entered the reserves in 1946.
Fox was living in Lee's Summit, Missouri when he learned that a carrier named after the only president from Missouri was going to be commissioned. Fox wrote his congressman requesting tickets to the commissioning ceremony, and attended the 1998 commissioning of USS Harry S. Truman with his son, James.
Fox felt a strong connection with the ship and several years later he specifically requested the Truman commit his cremains to sea.
Captain Joseph M. Clarkson, Truman's commanding officer, praised Fox's "spirit of patriotism and volunteerism that ennobled his service in the Navy and to his nation during time of war," and noted that Fox's lifelong love of aircraft carriers made it fitting that he be honored by Truman Sailors.
Father Thomas Ianucci, Truman's Catholic Chaplain, served as the ceremony officiate. Like each chaplain, he works closely with the family of the deceased throughout the process to fulfill the service member's wishes and bring comfort and closure to the family.
"Families are so appreciative when a ship is able to fulfill the service member's final wishes," said Ianucci.
A burial at sea is one of the Navy's most time-honored traditions, and provides Sailors the opportunity to bid farewell to one of their own. In keeping with tradition, the ceremony featured a chaplain from the service member's faith, a bugler, a seven-man rifle squad and an honor platoon.
Because most families typically do not have the opportunity to participate in the burial-at-sea ceremony, the ship sends photographs, video, a navigational chart marking the place of burial, and a flag to them.
The burial process is very important to persons of all faiths and each faith has its unique traditions, said Ianucci.
"In the Catholic faith, for a burial with cremations, we are not allowed to scatter the ashes. The ashes are treated as a human body and have to be placed in one container to preserve the body's unity."
Hull Technician 1st Class (SW) Carl Carlson was responsible for constructing the wooden container for Fox's cremains. The container required approximately eight hours to build and was weighted down with steel to allow it to sink. The construction of the container and the significance of a military burial resonated with Carlson, whose grandfather served in World War II and whose great uncle was buried in Arlington following his services in Korea.
The container has to be designed to hold the ashes and steel, and it must be strong enough to withstand the descent through the ocean. In addition to being functional, Carlson wanted the container to be something more: it had to be beautiful. When asked why he spent so much time crafting a container that was seen for half an hour, and will never be seen again, Carlson responded matter-of-factly.
"It's a respect thing. The family is putting their trust in you to take care of them-I take this seriously," Carlson said. "I wanted to make [the container] as nice as possible."
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.