Burial At Sea: Providing Hope and Closure

USS Makin Island Under wayIt was the most beautiful funeral I have ever led. Watching the final committal from the safety of the higher position, the stern gate, which normally is lowered for Amphibious Assault Vehicles, was now being opened to say farewell to a beloved shipmate one last time.

Moving along the waters just outside of San Diego at just 4 knots, the ocean sprayed up between the small gap made when the gate opens, surrounding the casket with a halo of sea spray and prismatic color in the morning sunlight. The sailors came to attention rendering one final silent salute as the water slowly enveloped the casket. One more wash of salt water gently swept over and pulled the casket out to sea. As it tilted up and peacefully sank into the deep, every sailor present fought back more than one salty tear.

It was at that moment I realized that all the time, energy, and effort in planning, coordinating and rehearsing was worth every minute. This was even more special to us because this was family. This was closure for a crew who had been mourning the loss of a well- known, well-loved, influential Master Chief who just a few months before was leading and mentoring sailors on board this very vessel.

Somehow through this ceremony, people heard the message of hope of eternal life taken from Romans 8. Somehow, no matter the beliefs of those present, seeing their brother in arms laid to rest enabled those present to move forward. Each one left a little more ready to serve with the confidence that in death just as in life, there is someone who cares. As a US Navy chaplain, I am honored to help bring this into the lives of those who sacrifice so much for our nation.

Very respectfully,

Aaron C. Carlton



This Farewell to Kyle article adds the Captain’s perspective with great photos of the ceremony…all the way to watching the casket float off the tail and out to sea!