USS RUSHMORE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines attached to amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit laid to rest 21 military veterans in the Pacific Ocean during a burial at sea, Sept. 19.
"Today, we honor our comrades who went before us, we honor their achievements and their lives as we lay them to rest in the great sea," said Commanding Officer Cmdr. Brian Finman, during the opening remarks.
Finman added, "I am humbled by this privilege and ask that as we honor these Sailors and Marine, we also pause to reflect inwardly and appreciate that our time on Earth is precious and that we should strive to make each day count."
During two separate formal ceremonies, one Protestant and one Catholic, Rushmore committed the remains of 20 former Sailors and one former Marine to the sea with full military honors, under the direction of Lt. Christopher Causee, command first lieutenant and Lt. Peter Ott, command chaplain.
"As we begin the long journey of our own deployment, I am grateful that we had the opportunity to honor our shipmates who have gone before us in service to our country," said Ott. "I hope that those who participated in the ceremony today walked away as I did, with a renewed sense of purpose and pride as we add to the legacy these 21 shipmates have left for us."
After being recognized individually by the command chaplain, the deceased were committed to the sea and honored with 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps.
According to the history section of the Navy.mil website, the practice of a burial at sea is an ancient one. The tradition has been around as long as people have been going out to sea.
"I was honored to be apart of this navy tradition," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Stephanie Concepcion. "It was difficult for me to control my emotions, I wanted to cry the whole time but I knew I needed to maintain my military bearing. I just hope that one day my burial at sea is just as beautiful."
Active duty members of the military, honorably discharged retirees and veterans, Military Sealift Command U.S. civilian personnel, and their dependents are all eligible for a burial at sea to honor their service to the country.
Rushmore is a part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and is currently underway on a Western Pacific deployment with amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20).
For more news from USS Peleliu (LHA 5) , visit www.navy.mil/local/lha5/.