By Ens. Chase Liddon
Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) conducted a burial at sea Mar. 4, 2021.
While transiting the Mediterranean Sea, the crew of Donald Cook paused for an afternoon to perform a burial at sea—a time honored tradition among professional mariners that dates back centuries.
“A burial at sea is often considered one of the most solemn ceremonies performed aboard a ship,” said Cmdr. Matt Curnen, Donald Cook commanding officer. “It is important we take time out of our busy schedules to recognize the service of a brother in arms, and send him off with the honor and tradition that his service and sacrifice warrants.”
Conducting a burial at sea is no small undertaking—it takes a lot of prior planning and practice to perform at the appropriate level. The crew of Donald Cook held numerous rehearsals over a span of a month to ensure the burial was executed sharply.
The burial began with the ship maneuvering for winds and ceremoniously lowering the Ensign to half-mast from the yardarm. The word “all hands bury the dead,” was passed on the ship’s announcing system and the crew assembled on the flight deck. Chaplain Travis Gardner led the crew in prayer followed by words from the commanding officer. The ceremony also included the firing of three volleys, playing of taps by a bugler, and presenting the national ensign to the commanding officer following the committal of the remains to the sea. This ceremony served as a powerful reminder of the dedication to service and deep traditions within the Navy.
Curnen addressed the crew of Donald Cook during the ceremony to offer solemn words of condolence.
“Let us take this opportunity to recommit to our service, to honor the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in arms, and that of our ship’s namesake, Col. Donald G. Cook, U.S. Marine Corps,” said Curnen. “Let us be good stewards of the Navy and the ship on which we serve. In doing so, we honor their memories and ensure that their sacrifice are never forgotten.”
Donald Cook is currently on her 11th patrol of the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
Four U.S. Navy destroyers, including Donald Cook, are based in Rota, Spain, and assigned to Commander, Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture. These Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.