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“Taps” and “The Navy Hymn” for Burials-at-Sea in Puget Sound Off the Ferry, Spokane

Posted by glennled on May 11, 2019

 

IMG_4040

“Let me go”—Joseph P. Doyon, 1922-2018

 

At about 9:50 a.m. on Saturday, 4 May, the Washington State Ferry, Spokane, enroute from Edmonds to Kingston, cut her engines and drifted for about five minutes in the ebb tide of Puget Sound while the ashes of Joseph P. Doyon and his oldest son, Paul, were committed to the sea. Joe died on 13 September 2018, age 95. His last home was in Tigard, Oregon, and his funeral service was held at Finley Sunset Hills Park and Mortuary in Portland on 7 October 2018. Paul died on 9 December 2017, age 62.

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Glenn Ledbetter plays “The Navy Hymn” aboard the ferry, Spokane

Joe was a World War II Navy veteran who participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy. I sounded “Taps” on my Getzen bugle, and the ferry captain gave three long blasts of the ship’s whistle in honor of him. As the ferry engines powered up and the ferry came up to speed, I closed the ceremony by playing “The Navy Hymn” on my Getzen trumpet. The family sang two verses:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
And those who on the ocean ply;
Be with our troops upon the land,
And all who for their country stand:
Be with these guardians day and night
And may their trust be in thy might.

Dale, Joe’s younger son, and his wife, Michelle, arranged this event. Michelle said that Joe loved to fish, golf and dance and was very sociable all his life. She called him a great man with many friends, a very hard worker, and a true gentleman. He spent many years writing the memoirs of his four years in the Navy and his WWII experiences. Dale intends to publish them soon. Michelle said that had Joe attended his own burial-at-sea ceremony, he would have said, “This is Marvelous!”

IMG_1473 - Joe Doyon (center with pistol in hand) - note caption (2)

Joe Doyon is standing (center) with pistol in hand during the Normandy invasion, 6 June 1944. The caption reads, “German prisoners were carried back to the west bank of the Rhine in landing boats. Prisoners on the boat fish some comrades out of the drink.”

IMG_2273 - Joe Doyon

Joseph Paul Doyon, 1922-2018, U.S. Navy veteran, WWII

Fourteen family members attended; one daughter, JoAnn Watson, traveled from Arizona. Among others taking photos was a step-grandson, Matthew, an Eagle Scout and a trumpeter.

Joe was born in Augusta, Maine in 1922, and served in the Navy from 1943-1946. He became a Motor Machinist Mate Second Class. At age 21, he was aboard one of the first amphibious landing boats at Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Joe was awarded many medals (see photo). He was a member of the U.S. LST Association (see https://www.uslst.org/). He lived in Edmonds, Washington for about 45 years and had a 41-year career at University Swaging, shaping and joining metals for its clients. In 1987, he retired as Vice President and Manager of the Boat Division. He also lived for several years on a houseboat on Lake Union. Joe and Paul often fished in Appletree Cove and off Apple Cove Point near Kingston. It was Joe’s favorite spot. Paul’s death was devastating to his father. Joe had six children (two boys and four girls), four step-children, 12 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

Burial-at-Sea Memorial Services

If approved by the Washington State Ferry Service, burial-at-sea memorial services are free but subject to the ferry captain’s final discretion due to weather or unforeseen operational issues. Cancelled services may be moved to another vessel or rescheduled. Advanced reservations are required, and memorials are permitted on six routes only: IMG_2884 (2)

  • Seattle/Bremerton
  • Seattle/Bainbridge
  • Edmonds/Kingston
  • Mukilteo/Clinton
  • Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Orcas
  • Port Townsend/Coupeville

Permissible times are during non-peak hours only:

  • Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday/Sunday, prior to 10 a.m.

Ashes must be contained in so-called “journey urns” which dissolve quickly after being dropped in the water.

Reflections

Memorial ceremonies call us, compel us, to reflect upon our own mortality. Each person who participated in or witnessed the Doyon burial-at-sea had his/her own memories and thoughts about the deceased father and son, life, and death. I did not know the Doyons, but here are my personal thoughts, brought up from the deep to the surface of me by this burial-at-sea.

First, Joe’s military service. I am immensely grateful to Joe and his generation. Without their values and fortitude, we Americas probably would now be speaking German or Japanese. Joe was a veteran who served with honor and survived D-Day. And as Jose N. Harris wrote, “A Veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life.” And as Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And as Raelynn Ricarte of Hood River, Oregon, who lost her son, a Marine Corps Captain, says, “Be an American worth dying for.” The Doyon family lost such a man—Joe. I bugle for such men and women. IMG_4135

Second, Joe’s disappearance. Through cremation, the major parts of the bodies of Joe and Paul were combusted, vaporized, and oxidized. Their ashes (mostly pulverized bone fragments) have now been separated, mixed and scattered in 3-D salt water. Their particles may someday settle to the sea bottom, or circulate in the North Pacific gyre, or be taken up into the atmosphere and fall again in the rain on a distant continent or ocean, circulating here and there around the globe throughout the ages. At various times in various places, their particles probably will be chemically broken down into their inherent molecules and even reformed into other compounds. By choice, Joe’s and Paul’s bodies are no more, vanished without trace, except in memories and images. “Let me go” was Joe’s last message, expressed in the program at his funeral service in Portland last fall. Last Saturday, his and Paul’s ashes blended with nature.

IMG_0923[1]

Dale and Michelle Doyon hold Dale’s father’s ashes in the biodegradable urn as the ferry, Spokane, approaches the Edmonds landing

Third, Joe’s life lessons for me—the afterlife. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (Job 1:21). God said to Adam, “…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen 3:19). But wait—the assemblages of organic matter that were identified as Joe and Paul are disintegrated, lost, gone. And my body, also, will be cremated. But wait again—Joe left his memoirs. Was he a believer? I don’t know. But it’s clear that Joe pondered such things in his heart. There is a saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” In other words (according to the saying), when under extreme stress, all people believe in, hope for, even call upon and appeal to a higher power. Joe certainly had been in the line of fire. How did it form him or change him, spiritually? Perhaps his memoirs will tell us.

But wait yet again—Joe is gone. I will follow, but for now, I’m still here, still vertical, still thinking, feeling, and kicking, “Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive,” as the Bee Gees sing. Is death the end of me? C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Ah! Despite cremation and even burial-at-sea, our distinct, individual identities, our being, are preserved.

Change is the only constant in life, said Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher. “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). And Lord Alfred Tennyson writes in his poem, The Brook, about how the water keeps on flowing after we are gone. The brook is the narrator:

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

“Change…a season…a time…heaven…forever…” The tide comes in and goes out. Day changes to night, and winter passes into spring. Years turn into eons. Millions multiply into billions, and so on. We die, and life goes on without us. But no, ultimately, the brook also will not survive. Scientists say that Earth itself will be consumed by the expanding Sun. The Sun, too, will die. The whole Milky Way Galaxy will be swallowed by a Black Hole. Everything—an atom, a toothpick, an aircraft carrier, a solar system, a galaxy—has a life cycle. Perhaps even a Black Hole. Perhaps even our entire universe. But, by definition, not Heaven. There dwells the Absolute, the Infinite, the great I AM, in Eternity. Endless time. No more cycles. Everlasting life in love, peace and joy. Justice—the triumph of Good. The promised ideal, made possible only by Grace.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

In his song, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Bob Dylan sings:

ce2c2640992bb117c2677db77efb7cd5--fashion-sketches-sketch-inspiration[1]

“Laughing Jesus” by Segura

“You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls…

“You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

“You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalms 53:1). Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6). No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44). In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2-3). Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27). Then he [one of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (I Corinthians 15:52,55).

Photos are courtesy of the Doyon family. Please click on any photo below to enlarge it.

8 Responses to ““Taps” and “The Navy Hymn” for Burials-at-Sea in Puget Sound Off the Ferry, Spokane”

  1. Michelle Doyon said

    Glenn,

    Very touching blog about my father-in-law’s Burial at Sea. Dale and I were honored to have you play Taps and the Navy Hymn in Joe’s honor. You made this occasion extra special by playing the bugle during the service. We want to thank you for your service to our country and for your kindness to attend and honor Joe’s final wish to be buried at sea in the waters of Apple Cove.

    Warm Regards,
    Dale & Michelle Doyon

    • glennled said

      Hi, Michelle,
      I’ve sounded “Taps” almost 200 times, and this occasion was very special to me, as you can tell from the post.
      Blessings to you, Dale, and yours,
      Glenn

  2. Jo anne owen said

    Dear Glenn,
    Oh, what a nice tribute to Joe
    And his son, Paul. So many of
    His family attended their Burial –
    At – Sea ceremony; a real honor
    For both of them.
    I wish I had been there to hug
    Them in their grief. Just a Simple
    “ I’m sorry! “! Would help them to say
    Goodbye to their Loved Ones!
    And, to hear you play those two
    Songs for them! I’m sure it was beautiful! Your contribution in their
    Grief, also. Both of those songs are
    My favorites, though hard to hear and
    Sing at a military funeral. But, thank the Lord that you accepted that challenge!!!
    So, thanks for sending this tribute
    To everyone and I’m sure all have
    Appreciated it!
    God Bless!!!

    • glennled said

      Thanks, Jo Anne. Yes, the family was well pleased with the ceremony and the blog article. Quite special. Glad to share it with you and others.

  3. Many thanks, Glenn. I am very pleased you may do such services. The immediate families certainly values them; could not be otherwise; but our nation appreciates it perhaps more. I’m sure people word-of-mouth about these services and a place opens in the hearts of people who have had no contact with WWII or these great men. I know now it affects me and I am sure my emotions are general. It’s only a portion of the good that has come from studying music and the inherent beauty of music may tell us that it’s not the most important part, but I have to value this patriotic blessing that has celebrated the ends of lives that deserve celebrations. Thanks again, James Owen

  4. Margaret said

    Glenn
    What a fitting blog to a wonderful
    Man who served his country well!
    Congratulation to you for giving him
    a burial he and his son deserved for this very action I thank-you!

    • glennled said

      Hi, Margaret,
      indeed, Joe was so deserving of the honors bestowed on him by his family, the state ferry system, and our nation.
      It was very significant to me to sound “Taps” for him and his survivors.
      Warm Regards,
      Glenn

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