U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its crew conducted the first burial at sea in more than two years on March 15, when they laid to rest 17 service members and one civilian.
The reason why this was the first burial in such a long time is that the carrier spent almost two years in port undergoing an extended planned incremental availability (EPIA) that started February 2015.
The ship got underway 20 months later, in October 2016, starting sea trials and training ahead of a 2017-scheduled deployment.
Sixteen sailors, one soldier and one civilian were committed to the sea with full military honors after a ceremony officiated by the ship’s command chaplains and Commanding Officer Capt. Kevin P. Lenox.
“It’s our way of honoring our shipmates and providing a dignified service to their loved ones so they can have closure,” said Cmdr. Steve Mills, Nimitz’ command chaplain. “Serving in the military is a big deal with its years of sacrifice and this is our final way of saying thank you.”
The chaplain recognized each service member individually as they were laid to rest, including Nimitz’ own Machinist Mate 1st Class Kathryn Linde.
A member of Nimitz’s Reactor Department, Linde passed away July 2, 2016. A memorial service was held on board July 8, 2016. For the Nimitz, this ceremony provides some closure to the family and friends of Petty Officer Linde. A final valediction to a close friend.
The tradition of a burial at sea dates back to the days of sail. At the formation of the U.S. Navy, the body was sewn into a shroud of sail cloth and sent over the side with a religious ceremony.
Active-duty service members, retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged, Military Sealift Command personnel and any dependents of active duty personnel may request a burial at sea.
Family members are given a letter of condolence as well as a national ensign, photos of the ceremony and the navigational chart of the location of where the ceremony took place.
Nimitz is currently underway to conduct Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), in preparation for an upcoming 2017 deployment.