04 October 2005

Morbid Thoughts

Rewriting the last will last night, figured it was time, haven’t done so since my last deployment. During this exercise, I became absorbed in morbid thoughts. Go figure, considering the subject of my labors. One of the first and foremost on my mind was the disposal of my remains.

I have always been a fan of cremation – I would rather those left behind think of me as wandering some attractive part of the world, instead of coming to mourn at some carbon-copy plot surrounded by similar holes in the ground. Being who I am, I had always been attracted to the ashes at sea, bit, as well, despite the fact that I am now residing about as far from the ocean as one can. As I talked it over with the wife, though, I had to make perfectly clear that I do not ever, EVER want to be buried at sea, Navy style. Especially via a submarine. Why, you might ask? Well let me tell you…

(In the Full Post)

I have been involved in two burials at sea, both times as the OOD, both conducted off the coast of New England. Both were similar in some respects, however, it is the differences that are worth noting, and what convinced me that having Mrs. PBS toss me in the ocean herself was preferable to having the Navy do it for her.

The first burial I will cover only briefly. It is what you would expect from a burial at sea. The XO and COB worked their way up to the bridge, in their choker whites, carrying the metal container with dead-dude #1’s cremains, the leading TM was already in the sail with an M-16 and some blanks, and the yeoman trailing behind them with the digital camera. The XO read some passages while the COB dumped the ashes overboard, with the TM firing away and the yeoman snapping pics. As I said, as you’d expect. After all was said and done, the (now empty, but still creepy) container, pics of the event, and casings from the rounds fired in dead-dude #1’s honor were all shipped off to the widow. Of course, despite turning into the wind before the ceremony, everyone still got dead-dude all over themselves due to the swirling winds up on the bridge. Ick.

The second burial was, ah, somewhat different. I found out that we would be performing said ceremony mere moments before watch. I quickly turned to my lookout and asked him if he had his ballcap and balaclava (required gear if you sail out of Groton), and if so, bring them with him to watch. He was confused, as it was late spring/early summer and not that cold, but went to get them. About half an hour into the watch, the call came up from Control that the XO was on his way up. I told the lookout to make room, expecting, of course, the same gaggle of people that had been here last time. But no, just the XO this time, in his poopy suit. I shot him a confused look, and he replied, smiling, “Nope, just me this time.” He clambered up into the flying bridge and told me to turn the ship into the wind. At this point I quickly explained why I had the lookout bring up his hat and balaclava, as it is no fun trying to wash dead-dude out of your hair, and much less fun trying to spit dead-dude out of your mouth. Then, from inside his poopy suit, the XO produced a ziplock bag. Once into the wind, he dumped poor dead-dude #2 overboard. Nice. Of course, this time, not only did dead-dude bits end up all over the bridge, but also all down the side of the sail. As we were headed into port, and it would not do to have a big light grey streak down our side, we actually resubmerged to rinse the last bit of dead-dude off our sail.
After watch, I asked the XO how we were going to assemble the package for the family of dead-dude #2. That is when he happily showed me pictures of the ceremony for d-d #1, and spent casings left over from d-d #1.

So yup, scatter me at sea, dear. Just don’t let the Navy do it. *sigh*

Read the Full Post


At 10/04/2005, Blogger MT1(SS) said...

Having experienced the same situation as you did with DD2, I agree wholeheartedly with your decision. It also reminded me of the last burial at sea I did.

Our CO was a short, curly-haired Sicilian whom we called "Screamin' Steve," a moniker he richly deserved. I don't recall a single OOD that was NOT relieved in Control or on the Bridge sometime during his 'reign' as CO.

As is somewhat stereotypical of the Italian/Sicilian persona, Screamin' Steve was incredibly superstitious, almost to the point of annoyance. One particular annoyance was this burial at sea. We actually did the ceremony somewhat properly, to include yours-truly playing Taps on the missile deck.

What happened after all the pomp and fanfaire still bugs me. Screamin' Steve had the ship's diver suit up and go in the water, swim out to what was about 150 yards off our beam downwind, and dump the ashes there.

There was no way Screamin' Steve was going to let "some dead guy's shit touch MY boat." (The man was big on the whole "MY boat" deal. Had a 2-foot square sign on his stateroom door: "When it's YOUR boat, we'll do it YOUR way.")

At 10/04/2005, Blogger Vigilis said...

PBS, Well, thanks for sharing what just burst my bubble. Bureaucracy on submarine burial details...wow! Screamin Steve's method was more comical. Assume the dead guy's mate got one of the the diver's flippers in remembrance?! Whew.

When John Kerry is buried at sea in the Gulf, please snatch a periscope video for me.

At 10/06/2005, Blogger loddfafnir said...

As an assistant photo officer I got the pleasure of recording a burial at sea. We had a nuke ET that was a religious lay leader who read a few words,a TM with the M16 and the XO who dumped the ashes. Service dress blues. I took some great pictures(35mm, before too many people had digital). The widow got some choice pics and a chart with an X on it that was supposedly where the ashes were dumped. The ashes were spread over a large area as the XO put a portion of them on the starboard fairwater plane with the last washed away only after we dove. I think the guy was a EN2(SS) or MM2(SS) back in WW2. I still have some of the pics that were left over.


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