San Diego

Veterans Increasingly Choose Burials at Sea as Final Resting Place in San Diego

On average, the wait time for cremated remains to be buried at sea is 115 days, and even longer for a casket

Veterans and their spouses are increasingly choosing to be buried at sea as their final resting place in San Diego.

The city is one of only five places in the U.S. where Navy ships embark for burials at sea. It is another option for veterans and their spouses who are eligible, especially since Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery has reached full capacity. Currently, Fort Rosecrans only accommodates second internment burials.

Linda and Ken Johnson were married for 46 years when he passed away. She says it was always where the Vietnam veteran, who spent 21 years in the Navy, wanted his final resting place to be.

“His father was in the Navy, and his father was scattered out at sea, and he said that's what I want to do,” said Linda.

Many veterans are buried at the Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego. But Linda says the sea is where her husband had so many great memories.

“I just know he's out there looking back at me,” said Linda.

On average, 950 people are buried at sea in ceremonies every year, according to the U.S. Navy. There is a gun salute during the ceremony attended only by members of the Navy.

The family also gets a letter from the commanding officer and map of the location. Linda keeps her husband’s letter in a special place.

“I have a little corner at my house that has his flag, his metals and the letter right there,” explained Linda.

It required some patience to have her husband rest in peace with a burial at sea.

In June 2014, Ken passed away, and his ceremony was held at Rosecrans in July, said Linda. But his remains weren’t buried at sea until April 2015. Linda had to make a few calls and was told the Navy had to wait for a ship.

She was puzzled that there weren’t enough ships available for this important ceremony because San Diego is a military town.

“Especially when you're in the Navy town, and there are lots of ships out there,” said Linda.

On average, the wait time for cremated remains to be buried at sea is 115 days, and even longer for a casket, according to the Navy. The cremated remains are held at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego until they are buried at sea.

The family is responsible for where the casket is kept, but there is little to no cost for burials at sea.

Linda plans to dedicate a plaque at the Miramar National Cemetery in honor of Ken. Eventually, she also plans to be buried at sea. She says spouses should talk about the subject, even if it is difficult.

“Make sure you talk to your husband – know what his wishes are,” said Linda.

One of the best reasons to choose the sea as a final resting place is that anytime she goes to the beach Linda can feel her husband’s presence.

“I know he’s out there having a ball,” said Linda.

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