Naval Blessings for Funerals
29 SEP 2017
The Navy's funeral ceremony generally follows specific rituals. You can even find military manuals about the proper order and wording of each stage of the funeral. In many cases, the person leading the religious part of the funeral will read a blessing or benediction, but not always. The format of the blessing depends on the religion of the deceased.
1 Burial at Sea
The Naval History and Heritage Command notes that people have buried their dead at sea since time immemorial. In the Navy, the service follows a prescribed format. A chaplain or officer will read the service, which includes the benediction as its fourth part. Everyone bows their head for the benediction. Immediately afterward, the firing party is ordered to fire off three volleys. This series of events is part of the larger funeral tradition, which comprises a religious and a military aspect.
2 Burial on Land
Land funerals also follow a strict pattern within the Navy. The format is largely the same as at sea, except that the committal might be different. Usually, the committal happens before the blessing, which uses the same wording, whether on land or at sea. At this point, the body is lowered into the grave or cast into the ocean. The exact wording of the blessing for any naval funeral varies with the structure of the religious component in accordance with the person's faith.
3 Jewish and Protestant Blessing
For the funeral of a Jewish person, the following blessing is spoken or read: "The Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee, the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Amen." In naval funeral ceremonies for a Protestant, the benediction is the same as for Jewish funerals. However, other prayers and readings are different.
4 Other Blessings
Navy funerals for Muslim sailors do not involve a blessing. As part of the ceremony, a prayer asks for forgiveness and "good in this life and good in the life to come," according to the guidelines laid out in "Navy Military Funerals" by the Bureau of Navy Personnel. Similarly, Eastern Orthodox customs call for a forgiveness prayer, rather than a direct blessing. For Catholics, the benediction reads: "Eternal rest grant to him/her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him/her. May he/she rest in peace. Amen. May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen." The farewell greeting and blessing, "Fair winds and following seas," is sometimes used informally at funerals, as well.