Burial at Sea: A Time-Honored Tradition


Most people think a burial at sea is something that happens only in the movies, but it's an option that is still widely used today. For many Sailors and Marines, there is no more honored choice for their mortal remains than burial at sea. 

While anyone can have their remains buried at sea, burial at sea from a U.S. military vessel is limited to active-duty members of the uniformed services, retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged, U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and their dependents.

Even though family members are eligible for burial at sea, they aren't allowed to attend a committal service on board a military vessel. The commanding officer of the ship will send the family a personal letter describing the exact date and time of the ceremony, the burial flag, pictures or videotape of the ceremony, and a chart showing the longitude and latitude where the service was performed.

The family may provide a burial flag, which will be flown at half-mast on the ship during the committal service, and then returned to them. If they don't provide a flag, the Navy will provide one, but won't return it to the family after the ceremony.

Your Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) can help you arrange all the details.

Some family members choose to observe the ceremony from a civilian ship that is positioned close to the military ship. For families who want to attend the service, civilian organizations offer burial at sea from a civilian vessel.

For more information see the Navy website.

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