ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Veterans Day, an annual day of commemoration that honors all military members, was observed with a unique and special ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), laying veterans to rest in the deep blue sea.
The cremains of 29 service members from four different branches of service and one Merchant Marine were laid in the sea during a burial at sea ceremony aboard Ford Nov. 11. Though the time honored tradition of a burial at sea has been in practice for as long as mankind has sailed the seas, this ceremony marked the first aboard Ford and her crew.
“The burial at sea ceremony connects us to the rest of the fleet and it also connects to our traditions, our pasts, and those who were also connected to the sea,” said Cmdr. Dave Kim, from Mineola, New York, a Ford chaplain. “It was a great experience throughout the whole ship to get involved with this experience.”
The ceremony was led by Ford’s Chaplain, Cmdr. Michael Amedick, from Pennsauken, New Jersey, who was honored to carry out this request for so many veterans.
“There was a lot of service among them across a lot of eras; it’s just nice to be able to honor that service in a fitting way, and even more special to be able to do it on Veterans Day,” said Amedick. “All of them served, we’re just trying to honor their desire [to be committed to the sea] in a way that is fitting for what they did.”
Surviving family members of the deceased receive the American flag that was carried with their remains, three spent cartridges which represents each of the volleys fired by the firing detail’s 21-gun salute, an official certificate showing the charted coordinates of where their loved ones were laid to rest, photos from the event and a personal letter from Ford’s Commanding Officer, Capt. John J. Cummings.
“Because the family members aren’t able to attend the burial at sea in person, they will be really happy to see the pictures and everything we’ve done to make it more meaningful to them,” said Amedick.
The crewmembers aboard Ford —many of which have never experienced a burial at sea ceremony — were eager to participate or attend and honor the service members.
“It was really cool how the crew was really involved, it’s kind of CRMD [command religious ministries department] leading it, but I think there was about a dozen different departments involved in one way or another,” said Amedick. “A lot of volunteers were really eager to serve in either the honor platoon, as an urn bearer, or the firing detail who all really did a great job honoring the people who we were committing, so I’m proud to just be a part of that.”
Sailors stood in formation on Ford’s aircraft elevator 3 in their dress blue uniforms, gathered to honor their service to our nation. At 9 a.m., the command was announced, “all hands bury the dead.” After a prayer from Amedick, the ceremony proceeded. Urn bearers carried the cremains to the catafalque one-by-one as Amedick read their names and background aloud. Salutes were rendered as they were then released to their final resting place.
A 21-gun salute shot toward the horizon. Gunshots faded with every echo as the empty shells bounced onto the deck. “Taps” sounded from a lone bugle over the silent participants and attendees.
Most of them were Sailors including two couples buried together. A few were Soldiers or Marines; one was a Merchant Mariner. Some of them served for decades, served only for a few years, but all of them served. Now they are committed to rest in the mighty blue sea.
Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. Ford is currently underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting an independent steaming exercise.
For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78
For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn78/.