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A Master Chief Returns to Sea for Last Time

The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rosalie Chang)
The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rosalie Chang)

PACIFC OCEAN — "All hands bury the dead," commanded the officer of the deck.

The ocean swells cradled the ship and the white tops broke under a clear sky, Jan. 24, as the casket of Master Chief Kyle G. Sutton laid peacefully in the well deck of USS Makin Island (LHD 8). Sailors gathered in ranks in honor of the master chief who only six months ago was out on the deckplates leading them on the naval warship.

Makin Island was Sutton's final duty station as a United States Navy Sailor, and it would be the vessel that carried him to his final resting place in the Pacific Ocean.

"Makin Island, attention!" commanded Executive Officer Capt. Mark Melson.

Sailors and Marines all came to attention as Commanding Officer Capt. Jon P. Rodgers gave his remarks.

"Shipmates," began the captain, "it's a very fitting morning." The sound of the ocean roared outside of the well deck and the ship steadily swayed from its swells.

"I had hoped for a very calm-watered ceremony, but that would not be Kyle," said Rodgers. "He wanted to go with a splash. Well, he's going to get that wish because we're in eight to ten foot seas and we're heading west."

As the captain continued to speak about Sutton, Sailors stood stoically, facing the sea. Though their expressions remained the same with constant vigil in the early morning hour, tears began to stream down many of their faces.

"This morning there are no words for comfort," said. Rodgers. He paused as he looked at the ranks of Sailors and Marines. "There are only words of praise for a shipmate that we will dearly miss — eternal praise and thanks that our paths have crossed with such a man, such a Sailor who made us all better."

The commanding officer again paused, looking down for a moment, and when his eyes came to face his crew again he said, "He trained a generation of boatswain's mates, a wardroom and a captain."

"Chaplain," said Rodgers, "carry out the honor."

Lt. Cmdr. Aaron C. Carlton, command chaplain, gave the benediction and concluded with a prayer and the committal.

"Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of Master Chief Petty Officer Kyle Glen Sutton and we commit his body to the deep. In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life, through our lord Jesus Christ, Amen."

Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit comprised the rifle detail for the ceremony. They marched in perfect sync to their places in the well deck.

"Fire three volleys!" commanded the ceremonial master-at-arms. "Ready. Aim. Fire!"

The shots echoed through the ship and over the vast blue ocean as a silent crew saluted.

Pallbearers from the Makin Island Chiefs Mess came to their positions around the casket. They grasped the handles and walked their fellow shipmate through the well deck, where he once lead and trained his Sailors during what would be his last deployment.

They placed him at the waters edge and then returned back to the front of the well deck ramp. The Sailors and Marines watched as the sea splashed and the ocean mist surrounded the boatswain's mate during his last moments aboard.

Taps played throughout the ship as the crew rendered their final salutes and watched as the stern gate lowered the Sailor down.

Boatswain's Mate Master Chief Kyle G. Sutton, for the last time, returned to the sea.

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