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Burial at Sea


Burial at Sea is a term used to describe the interment of a deceased servicemember’s remains in the ocean. This military funeral tradition is reserved for eligible veterans, active-duty, or retired servicemembers, among others. The United States Navy, Coast Guard, or a civilian vessel with prior approval may conduct the burial ceremony.

Key Takeaways

  1. Burial at Sea is a form of military funeral in which eligible veterans are interred at sea, conducted by the United States Navy, Coast Guard, or Merchant Marine.
  2. Eligibility for burial at sea includes active duty service members, retirees, veterans honorably discharged, U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and dependent family members of the above.
  3. The process entails cremated remains being scattered, or caskets being sent into the ocean with appropriate military honors and ceremonies, providing a dignified and respectful final resting place for the deceased.


The term “Burial at Sea” is important within the context of VA benefits because it signifies a unique burial option given to eligible American veterans.

This honorable and dignified ceremony is held aboard a United States Navy or Coast Guard vessel and is reserved for those who have served in any US military branch, thus highlighting the dedication and service of the individuals to their nation.

By offering this special maritime tribute, the Veteran Affairs honors the lives and sacrifices made by the veterans while ensuring that their final resting place evokes the essence of their service, fostering a deep connection to their fellow comrades and the country they valiantly defended.


Burial at Sea is a unique and deeply meaningful way to honor the memory of deceased individuals who have dedicated their lives to serving the United States as members of its Armed Forces. The purpose of this time-honored tradition is to provide a dignified form of final disposition for eligible veterans and their loved ones, while also demonstrating respect and gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

The practice is rooted in the rich military traditions of the maritime services, a nod to the deep bond servicemen and women share with the sea. Moreover, Burial at Sea services allow families of the fallen to honor their memory in a manner that is both solemn and profoundly meaningful.

The Department of Defense conducts these burials in collaboration with the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Maritime Administration. Providing this benefit to eligible individuals, which may include veterans, active-duty personnel, or retired personnel, serves as a tangible acknowledgment of their contributions to the nation’s maritime and military heritage.

The ceremony, which often involves the committal of ashes or a body to the sea, highlights the commitment of United States Armed Forces in preserving the memory of their servicemen and women, ensuring their legacies remain etched in national consciousness. In offering this unique form of interment, the United States honors and keeps alive its enduring debt of gratitude to those who have selflessly served the nation in times of war or peace.

Examples of Burial at Sea

U.S. Navy Veteran John Smith: John Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, passed away in

He had a strong bond with the sea throughout his life and always expressed his wish to be buried at sea. Upon his passing, his family contacted the U.S. Navy to make arrangements for his burial at sea. With the help of VA benefits, the Navy coordinated a burial at sea ceremony that took place on a U.S. Navy ship, honoring his wishes and his service to the country.

WWII Air Force Veteran Jane Doe: Jane Doe, a decorated WWII Air Force veteran, passed away in 2008 at the age of

During her service, she was stationed on multiple islands in the Pacific Ocean and always felt a deep connection to the ocean. As per her wishes, her family worked with the VA and U.S. Coast Guard to coordinate a burial at sea ceremony. Jane’s cremated remains were scattered in the Pacific Ocean with full military honors, paying tribute to her service and fulfilling her desire to rest eternally in the embrace of the ocean.

Korean War Marine Corps Veteran Robert Brown: Robert Brown served as a Marine in the Korean War and had a profound love for the ocean. In his later years, he lived near the beach where he spent many hours enjoying the peace and tranquility of the water. When he passed away in 2017, his family members, utilizing the resources provided by the VA benefits, petitioned for a burial at sea. The U.S. Marine Corps honored his wish by conducting a burial at sea ceremony where Robert’s cremated remains were scattered in the ocean, giving him the resting place he desired.

FAQ Section – Burial at Sea

Q: What is a burial at sea?

A: Burial at sea is a traditional maritime ceremony in which the deceased’s remains are committed to the ocean. This form of burial is available to veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their dependents who meet eligibility requirements. It can include interring ashes or casketed remains.

Q: Who is eligible for a burial at sea?

A: Burial at sea is available for active duty members of the uniformed services, retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged, U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and dependent family members of active duty personnel, retirees, and veterans.

Q: How can I request a burial at sea?

A: To request a burial at sea, the Person Authorized to Direct Disposition (PADD) should contact the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs office. They must provide documentation, including the deceased’s death certificate, cremation certificate (if applicable), and proof of military service (e.g., discharge papers, a military ID, or a copy of a DD Form 214).

Q: What are the procedures for a burial at sea?

A: During a burial at sea, the ceremony is conducted on a U.S. military vessel while the ship is deployed. The deceased’s remains are committed to the ocean, accompanied by a committal service conducted by the ship’s commanding officer or another designated officer. Flowers or wreaths may also be placed in the water during the ceremony.

Q: Is there any cost associated with a burial at sea?

A: There is no cost to the family for the burial at sea service. However, the family is responsible for the costs of cremation or embalming and transportation of the cremains or casket to the designated port where the ship is located.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • US Navy Military Funeral Honors
  • Maritime Memorial Service
  • Sea Scatterings
  • Full-Body Burial at Sea
  • Environmental Benefits of Burial at Sea

Sources for More Information