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The Navy’s Burial at Sea Program enables families to provide for the final disposition of their service member’s cremated or casketed remains as part of a special onboard ceremony. The Navy offers this service free of charge to eligible families, though families may not attend as the Navy performs the ceremony while the ship is training or deployed.
This military funeral honor recognizes a service member or veteran’s commitment and sacrifice to their country and provides comfort and gratitude to their families. The Navy performs an average of 1,500 cremated remains and 15 casketed remains per year. It performed 1251 burials at sea in 2021.
Navy Burial at Sea
Navy Personnel Command outlines its Burial at Sea Program.
Those eligible to be buried at sea by the Navy are:
- Active-duty service members
- Honorably discharged retirees and veterans
- U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command
- Dependent family members of active-duty personnel, retirees and veterans
Initiating a burial at sea for a loved one
After the death of the individual, the person authorized to direct disposition or the primary next of kin must contact the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs Office at 866-787-0081 to request a packet (mailed or emailed) and to receive more information by phone and email.
The PADD or primary next of kin must print out and complete the Burial at Sea Request/Authorization Form and the following documents, which make up the burial at sea request packet:
- Photocopy of the death certificate
- Burial transit permit or the cremation certificate
- A non-notarized copy of DD Form 214, the discharge certificate or retirement orders
Next, the PADD or primary next of kin can consider if they would like to receive the flag (flown during the ceremony) after the ceremony along with the other mementos the ship provides. If so, they should include a flag in the burial at sea request packet.
Finally, the PADD or primary next of kin must contact the port coordinator for the port they wish to use. This contact information is located in the initial burial at sea packet they received. Ask if the coordinator wants to receive the request paperwork, flag and remains at the same time and how they want to receive the request packet (mail or email).
Timeline for burial at sea
Once all services for the deceased are completed, the urn or casket, flag and required documents are sent to one of the burial-at-sea ports. Once the port receives this documentation, it can take:
- Three months to be assigned to a U.S. vessel
- Two weeks prior to the ship’s deployment to notify the family
- One year for the ship to deploy (when burial at sea will occur)
- Until the ship returns from deployment for the family to receive a video of the service and a map showing where the burial took place
Additional military funeral honors resources
- This PowerPoint outlines Navy procedures for its Burial at Sea Program.
- Navy Personnel Command outlines the program in detail.
- The Coast Guard has its own Burial at Sea Program.
- Military OneSource provides answers to some frequently asked questions about the Military Funeral Honors Program in general, and explains how to request honors.
- Veterans and military funeral honors provides information for those who have transitioned out of the military.
- This document tells how to request military records for veterans burial/funeral benefits.