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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sea burial could be a space saver

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"Navy resumes sinking of old ships" (Web, July 2) highlighted the United States' wastefulness, but in so doing pointed out an opportunity that may seem bizarre to some but beyond practical to others.

As most readers surely are aware, increasing numbers of World War II and Korean War veterans are dying. Arlington Cemetery and other national burial sites reportedly are being overwhelmed by this sad but inevitable reality. At the risk of appearing insensitive, I suggest that there may be a large number of Navy, Coast Guard, Marine and other service veterans who would consider burial at sea, perhaps in the berthing compartments of these surplus ships. This could be an acceptable alternative to burial onshore.

The environmental oversight folks predictably will be appalled at the suggestion, as will lawyers and other self-appointed gatekeepers and busybodies, but because we are wasting precious and strategic ferrous and nonferrous metals by sinking these ships at depths beyond recovery, why not use them to help with the problem at onshore burial grounds?

With a bit of careful research and consideration, it would seem that the logistical and ceremonial aspects of a mass burial at sea - in conjunction with a post-ceremony sinking of these vessels during gunnery and other training - could be accommodated with reasonable cost to the government and veterans while providing a tasteful and memorable experience for friends and relations. Ceremonies could be conducted onshore or on barges temporarily moored to the stricken ship. The later, distant live-fire training probably would not disturb the ship's final "crew."

Considering that government regulations require that "casketed remains" must be placed in water at depths of more than 600 feet, salvagers and divers would be discouraged from disturbing them.


Vienna, Va.

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