Maintain Silence About the Decks.
Life aboard any US Navy vessel is marked by a series of routines. Sailors quickly learn that there are expected behaviors during each of those routines. During refueling operations, the red flag is flown and the word is passed that the smoking lamp is out. Taps is another time of change where sailors try to respect their shipmate’s rest by keeping quiet and turning the lights out in berthing. But one particular routine is as old as the Navy itself. Honoring the Almighty and saying goodbye to a shipmate.
The Church Pennant is the only flag ever flown over the National Ensign at the same point of hoist. It is displayed during church services conducted by a Chaplain, both ashore and afloat. It is also flown when the ceremony for saying goodbye to a shipmate is performed.
Prior to the ceremony, ship’s company all don their dress uniforms and assemble on the appropriate deck. In this modern day and under the circumstances, there would be no way possible for all of us who knew Ronald Spurlock to gather. Based on the many notes of condolences sent in the past few days, I don’t know if we could find a large enough ship to render the honors properly. I would also imagine that many of us would no longer fit into those handsome uniforms we once wore. But I do know this. As a fellow sailor, he would appreciate the gesture.
From everything I knew about this man I never met, he was a patriot, loved his country and honored his time in the United States Navy. He shared his love with us on so many occasions and I always looked forward to his posts. But God knew his time was up and brought him home. I know with certainty that at some point we will all join him there. I am sad that I never got to meet him in person. I felt that I knew him. But I am happy to know we will serve again together in the great beyond.
“Now maintain silence about the decks” is the way all sailors’ attention is drawn to a time of respect. Shipboard life is hectic and chaotic even in its routines. But during this time, we should pause. We should reflect. We should take a moment to say goodbye.
Thank you Ron for your friendship these past few years. I will miss you. I know that your earthly remains are being cared for and those close to Tennessee will be there for your last farewell. But for those of us who can’t be there, I offer one last Naval tradition. When a sailor passes and the distance to shore is too far away, the most time honored tradition for burial at sea.
UNTO Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the deep; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.