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Georgia On My Mind, Interrupted

Permit me to interrupt the photo journey to the green hills of Georgia to share a very personal event in my family's life. As I have mentioned previously, my mom passed away in 2009 and my dad in 2014. Both had the same wish for their final remains — to be cremated and their ashes spread together in the Atlantic Ocean off Ocean City, MD. Therefore, last month, my siblings and I gathered together in Ocean City to fulfill their wishes.

Our sister, Connie, who lives in nearby Delaware, discovered that the Coast Guard will assist in a burial at sea for military veterans such as our father who served in the Army Air Corps.

On April 23, we met at the Indian River Inlet Coast Guard Station. We would be taken three nautical miles out to sea on a cool breezy day. They have a variety of boats — fortunately, this was not the one we would be taking.

Ah, this is better. The boat on the left is for us — a 47-foot MLB, which is the standard lifeboat of the United States Coast Guard.

The first step was for each of us to put on a lifesaving suit so that if any of us were accidentally tossed overboard, we could survive in the frigid waters while they executed a rescue. The Coast Guard personnel told us it was unlikely but such is standard procedure — executing an abundance of caution when civilians are involved. They also wore similar suits but theirs were custom tailored to fit the individual properly.

From left to right — Lisa, Danny (married to Janie), Janie, Connie and me.

Well, under way. The personnel were very friendly and chatted with us throughout the voyage. Lisa and I were topside where the boat's controls are located. I wanted to be there to take photos from that higher perch.

About one nautical mile out, we could look back at the Indian River Inlet bridge. Quite an impressive sight.

Here we pass the green buoy, which marks the left side of the channel when returning from a large body of water. At this point in the journey, the ocean felt quite calm — we had the wind at our backs. However, when we arrived at the three-nautical mile point and they cut the motors, that 47-foot boat was tossed around like a little dingy.

We decided to let the Coast Guard personnel handle the ceremony — spreading the ashes, playing of "Taps" on a bugle, a reading blessing the departed plus presentation of a folded American flag (in recognition of our father's military service), a certificate marking the occasion and a map showing the exact coordinates where the cremains were dispersed.

The voyage back to the Coast Guard station was quiet — both from the solemnity of the day's ceremony and from the rough water due to returning into the wind. Here our family portrait upon our turn. Left to right, Connie, Janie, me and Lisa.

Here is a scanned copy of the certificate provided by the Coast Guard. I must say that I was very impressed with how they carried out our request and very grateful for their assistance. I would highly recommend contacting the Coast Guard for similar services for anyone wishing to disperse the cremains of a loved one who has served in the military.

Finally, the map showing the spot where our parents' remains were dispersed. We love you Mom and Dad — may you rest in peace.

"Georgia on My Mind" to be continued next week...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com