Today, February 29, 2012 will be a day that will be remembered forever, not because it is a date that only happens once every four years. It will be memorable because this is the day my friend, a great Chief Petty Officer and beloved family man will finally return to sea.
He will never come back.
His name is Robert Luke, but no one called him Robert or Bob. Everyone just called him Luke. He died October 22, 2010.
He wanted his final resting place to be at sea, in the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, where he belongs. He was a natural Sailor. A Sailor’s Sailor. Quick to smile and slow to anger, his troops would do anything for him. So would his fellow Chiefs. So would the wardroom.
After the pain of his sudden death subsided, the only thing left to do was ensure he was given an honorable ceremony. But there were delays. Bureaucracy got in the way, and after more than a year of waiting, his remains still awaited assignment to a ship worthy enough to take him to his final resting place. He had become a name on a speadsheet, awaiting logistical resolution. His family asked for help.
And Sailors – the Sailors who would do anything for him – responded. Phone calls were made. Requests were submitted. Admirals were notified.
But mostly it was the Chiefs. Luke was one of their own. His real family grieved, but so did his adopted family – the one wearing khaki. Within a few days paperwork barriers were shattered and a warship had volunteered – and been accepted for – the honor of carrying Luke’s ashes to sea.
Today, in the peaceful waters of the Pacific, Luke will return to the ocean for the last time. The ship – USS PAUL HAMILTON – will host the solemn ceremony and note the position. One day his family will be able to stand on the shores of Hawaii and look to sea, knowing where his remains were laid to rest.
A funny thing happens when ashes are scattered in the ocean. They dissolve into the blue water, eventually spreading around the world and becoming a part of all seven seas, surrounding us all.
Right where Luke belongs.