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Trivandrum, Kerala, Beach

Leo Suresh, Leoba Media

Farewell to the American Prince

  Stately Burial at Sea

Burial at sea is an extremely dignified ceremony, steeped on tradition going back to the ancient ritual from the time of sailing ships. In the US, the stately Burial at sea option is only available to anyone who left the military with something higher than a dishonorable discharge; US civilian personal of the military sealift command; dependents of members of the military and other US citizens who are determined eligible by the chief of Naval operations, due to notable service or outstanding contribution to the US. JFK Jr. was eligible as his father, the assassinated President JFK. was a veteran of the US Navy. "Defense Secretary William Cohen approved a request by the both bereaved families for 'the burial at sea'," the Pentagon said. Two Navy chaplains and a civilian Roman Catholic priest were to facilitate at the ceremony.

Family members boarded the Coast Guard cutter 'Sanibel' from Wood Hole, Mass. for a trip to the destroyer USS Briscoe*, for the service about two miles from the splash point of Kennedy's plane. The members included Sen. Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, her husband Edwin Schlossberg, cousins Maria Shriver, William Kennedy Smith, Ted Kennedy Jr., Patrick Kennedy, Max Kennedy and Rory Kennedy and the Bessettes' mother Ann Freeman, her daughter Lisa Ann Bessette, the twin sister of Lauren and their step-father Dr. Richard Freeman. The families carried the cremated remains of the bodies.

There was no honor guard when they approached the destroyer to keep the ceremony at 'low key'. Three folded US flags and three wreaths with red, yellow and white flowers were placed on the ship. Once they climbed up the gangway into the destroyer, she radioed: "we are now headed for sea, under the Stars and Strips." Three 110 ft cutters escorted the USS Briscoe South down Martha's Vineyard Sound. At one point she stopped and turned towards the Gay Head beach on Martha's Vineyard as a symbolic salute to the 500 acre estate of the late Jaqueline Kennedy, where JFK Jr. spent years swimming, fishing and kayaking.

At the stern, a flag was lowered to half-mast. And the group was seat ed. Prayers and scriptures were read from the Holy Bible, including the passage "The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them." Two mourners also spoke during the service. It was a very simple but solemn service lasted less than half-hour.

A brass quintet from the Newport Navy Band played "Eternal Father" which prays for 'those in peril on the sea'. The same Navy hymn was played by the Navy Band in 1963 as President JFK's body was carried to the Capitol up to lie in state. The quintet also played "Abide with Me" and "For All the Saints".

The family members descended from the deck of the ship to commit the ashes to the waves. To the accompaniment of three rifle volleys, the ashes of JFK Jr., his wife and her sister were cast into the water from the destroyer USS Briscoe, approximately five miles off the west end of Martha's Vineyard, somewhere near the splash point. Its not known if the ashes were scattered as the Navy tradition or if the urns were plumented into the ocean. In half hour they returned to the upper deck.

The flag was taken down. The USS Briscoe turned its bow towards Kennedy's beach one last time and then headed back to Woods Hole. Before disembarked, the family members kneeled on the deck to say the 'Lord's Prayer'. The ceremony took place in complete tranquility on what would've been the 109th birthday of the Kennedy family matriarch Rose F. Kennedy, on Thursday the July 22nd. No grave site, no towering mounts of flowers, no mawkish farewell notes from tear stained girls, who never knew him.

Ultimately, the cameras that tailed JFK Jr. his entire life were kept away from his final rites, leaving TV networks show nothing more than a US Navy destroyer sitting off-shore. FAA imposed flight restrictions to secure the privacy of the family during the ceremony. No media helicopters were allowed near the USS Briscoe within 17000 ft ceiling and 17 miles' radius.

*USS Briscoe: Its a 522 ft high-tech missile destroyer of the US Navy with 21 officers and 321 onboard used in action including Vietnam war was dedicated to a four star Admiral Robert Briscoe who served both the world wars. This destroyer became a 'savior' in 1976, which rescued more than 500 lives in Red sea, as responded immediately after the distress call from the Egyptian ferry when she had run into problems and sinking.


          Trivandrum, Kerala, Pattom, Pettah, Attingal                                         Leoba Media New York