“But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for, is their monument today”
Our Country has a long, proud history of military burials at sea. During WW1, WW2, The Korean War, and Viet Nam War it was a common practice for often the fallen comrade was far from home and shipping the body was deemed impractical. Refrigeration was not available, so the burial ceremony had to be performed at sea. Also, this prevented the spread of various diseases.
Today, these problems have been taken care of so, very commonly the soldier is returned to his home land. The loved ones though, often chose to have a burial at sea because of an attachment to the sea such as our military branches of The Merchant Marines, Sea Bees, Marines, Navy, and the U.S Coast Guard. Our National Cemeteries are also a wonderful choice for an honorable and dignified ceremony.
Full body burials are performed at sea, but most families chose the spreading of ashes. ‘The Last Watch’ was created as the only non-profit in the United States to perform the scattering-of-ashes for the Military and their families as a special service. We simply wanted to honor our heroes that have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedoms by offering this service. We want to do our small part to honor those who have honored us and to ‘give back’ to our country.
The cost of providing this is supported entirely by donations, so we reach out to the public and other organizations to help us to continue in this endeavor. It is a great honor just to be able to help others in this way. We believe that they certainly deserve it.
“America’s fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free. We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for this cause as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battle field unscathed.”
This emotional patriotic quote tells much of our story. The president of the Last Watch, Pat O’Connor was a Green Beret during the Viet Nam War. He led men who were not fortunate enough to return. Pat although not exactly ‘unscathed’ was amazingly blessed and was able to return. He was not welcomed back by the American people at that time of political unrest, but always remained a patriot.
Several years ago, God blessed Pat with the idea and call to give back to his country by doing something significant to the branches of the Military. Thus began the foundation for the creation of The Last watch as the only company in The United States to provide to the Military and their families’ free burials-at-sea as a non-profit public benefit charitable trust.
We can only say that it has been an amazing blessing. Being a part of the planning process for the honorable burial of one of our true heroes and then to participate in the scattering of ashes at sea has been an experience beyond description. We have heard from so many families that have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for what we do.
Here is one of our recent testimonials:
“Dear Pat and Kevan,
Such a beautiful day for our ceremony and such an awesome father and son duo. It was a pleasure meeting you both and I thank you for helping Harland’s family and mine to say a final good bye. You do God’s work for sure. I will always remember 10/26/14 and you and Kevan.
The Honor Guard
“Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real intent of the nation.”
The Honor Guard
The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article about the Honor Guard that works with us at The Last Watch (11/12/14). It says in the article that this’ group of 22 veterans out of Post 291 in Newport Beach is known throughout the American Legion as one of the best honor guards in the United States based on its high placement in competitions’. When you elect to have an Honor Guard for your ceremony, you will have the best.
There are three parts of an Honor Guard service:
- The flag folding ceremony
- The 21 rifle volley
- The playing of taps by a bugler
You can choose to have any or all of these ceremonies performed. The Honor Guard is a non-profit, so all donations to them are decided by you.
The flag folding ceremony: You can obtain from most post offices a ‘coffin’ flag at no charge. You would give this to the Honor Guard for the ceremony and they in turn, will present you with the flag after the ‘showing of the colors’ and ceremonial folding.
The 21 rifle volley: Formally referred to as the 21 gun salute, 7 soldier’s fire in unison 3 times.
The playing of taps by a bugler: This ends the ceremony.
The Ringing of the Ships Bell
“The magic of America is that we are a free and open society with a mixed population. Part of our security is our freedom”
Our traditional parting ceremony after the ashes are lowered into the sea is the ringing of the ships bell. In the military we serve ‘watches’ to protect our comrades. They get a needed rest while we stand guard referred to as ‘serving watch’. Eight 30 minute watches are served beginning at 12 noon. At the end of each watch is the ringing of the ships bell signifying the beginning of the next watch: At 12:30 the bell is rung one time, 1:00 two times, etc. until the end of the last watch when the ships bell is rung 8 times. Then the process starts over again continuing for 24 hours.
We named our foundation The Last Watch to embody this concept that is the soldiers ‘last watch’ as he or she is entered into the sea. This is normally done by the lowering of a basket containing the ashes covered with rose petals. It is a very emotional experience and we believe a loving, respectful, and an honorable way to say good bye.
After the ships bell is rung, we circle the ashes several times in tribute to their cherished sacrifice before we head back to port. At this time, the loved ones usually drop roses into the sea after their own private prayer. We provide the rose petals and the roses for everyone on board.
For the State of California, the Secretary of State and Attorney General, Department of Justice, and Department of Consumer Affairs have awarded a non-profit, public benefit, charitable trust designation to The Last Watch Foundation to provide funeral services to help the Military and their families. We are the only organization in the United States to be awarded this honor. The State has also given us license to perform the scattering of ashes at sea. If a donation to The Last Watch is ever received, those funds are deposited directly into The Last Watch Foundation.