Burial-at-Sea for Two Former Crew Members of USS George Washington
The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) held a burial-at-sea for retired Lt. j.g. Paul Shivell and retired Chief Mess Management Specialist Peter Schiavo Sept. 14.
The two burials consisted of a religious ceremony held in accordance with the deceased’s spiritual affiliation and was officiated by the ship’s command chaplains, followed by full military honors.
“Burials-at-sea are conducted in recognition of and in appreciation for distinguished service to our nation,” said Capt. Kenneth Reynard, George Washington’s executive officer. “Each is regarded as a solemn and sacred obligation.”
Naval traditions like this are a unique occasion for the crew of George Washington, which rarely hosts ceremonies of this nature due to the difficulty of transporting remains from the U.S. to the Asia-Pacific region.
“Ships based at Norfolk typically conduct more than one-thousand burials-at-sea a year,” said Cmdr. Dan Mode, George Washington’s command chaplain. “It’s a great honor to do something like this, and more importantly, it brings closure to the families.”
Capt. William Shivell and Capt. Sandra Schiavo attended the ceremony and participated in the traditional “Committal to the Sea” of their fathers’ ashes in a wooden urn provided by the ship.
“Being the crusty Sailor that he was, my father made it clear to me that he wanted to be cremated and buried at sea,” said Schiavo. “He actually told me that he wanted to be put into a Navy-issue coffee can and be committed while the ship was underway.”
Both Schiavo and Shivell expected a much simpler ceremony and were surprised to see that a full 21 gun salute, funeral detail, specially hand-crafted urn and playing of taps were provided for the occasion.
“I wasn’t expecting a full detail or taps at all. It was so touching that the chaplain and the crew would do all of this for me and my family,” said Shivell. “I know my sisters and the rest of my family will appreciate the video and pictures so much.”
Lt. j.g. Shivell enlisted in the Navy in 1939; while deployed to the Western Pacific area in 1941, Shivell’s ship was bombed by Japanese aircraft two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was accepted into an aviation commissioning program in 1942 and flew patrol aircraft until the end of World War II.
“He was extremely proud of his service to the Navy and I loved being able to share this one last tradition with him,” said Shivell.
Chief Schaivo was drafted into service in 1956. According to Capt. Schaivo, his brothers urged him to avoid joining the Army and he jumped at the chance to become a Sailor. He retired as a chief petty officer 24 years later.
“I feel that the chaplains and staff went above and beyond,” said Schaivo. “Everything came together so well and I think he would’ve loved this.”
The family members will be given a letter of condolence with a National Ensign, photographs and video of the ceremony, the empty shell-casings of the 21-gun-salute and navigational chart of where the burial-at-sea took place.
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
Naval Today Staff, September 17, 2012; Image: Navy