March 2, 2022

A Time-Honored Tradition Of Burial At Sea

Orville BravoMarch 2, 2022

Most people believe that a burial at sea only happens in movies, yet it is a viable option still used today. For many Sailors and Marines, there is no more honorable option than burial at sea for their lifeless remains. Family members cannot attend the service in person because the burial is from an operational military ship. 

On the other hand, some family members prefer to watch the event from a neighboring civilian ship. Civilian organizations arrange a burial at sea from a civilian vessel to relatives who choose to attend the rite.


While anyone can have their remains buried at sea, burials from a US military vessel are limited to the following:

  • Military personnel on active duty
  • Retirees and veterans who have been honorably discharged from the military
  • Military Sealift Command civilian personnel
  • Active-duty personnel dependents, retirees, and veterans

The ship's commanding officer performing the sea burial will send the family a personal letter outlining the precise day and hour of the ceremony, the burial flag, photos or video of the event, and a chart showing the longitude and latitude where the service took place.

The family may provide a burial flag that will be flown at half-mast on the ship during the committal service before being returned to them. The Navy will supply a flag if they do not offer one, but the navy will not return it to the family after the ceremony.

Application Process

Following the death of an eligible person, the next-of-kin or an authorized individual (family, clergy, funeral director, etc.) can call the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs office at 866-787-0081 to request a packet and more information.

The request should include:

  • Photocopy of the deceased person's death certificate
  • Certificate of cremation or the burial transit permit
  • Copy of the discharge certificate, retirement order, or DD Form 214

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