|Chief Gunnar Bruning renders taps for Neil Armstrong |
aboard USS Philippine Sea.
Upon arrival in Mayport, we headed to USS Philippine Sea (CG 58). We were met by the commanding officer, who escorted us to the wardroom. Capt. Steve Shinego gave us a warm welcome and told us how proud he was that his ship and crew would be part of this historic event. The skipper also impressed upon us how honored he is to command such a great ship and crew. I can only assume USS Philippine Sea was chosen for this mission specifically because of her outstanding reputation. A rehearsal was then conducted on the ship for the burial at sea involving Ceremonial Guard body bearers and firing party, ship’s crew, and me.
|USS Philippine Sea (CG 58)|
The following morning we reported to the ship at 0700 for a 0800 departure. Having never been out to sea before, I jumped at the chance to man the rail for our departure. As we pulled out of the harbor I watched two moored ships render honors to us as we passed. The magnitude of our mission that day and the feeling of sheer power from being underway on a Navy warship came together for me as goose bumps spread over my body.
We steamed out over the horizon to commit the remains of Neil Armstrong to the sea. The ship stopped and we took our positions on the fantail for the ceremony. It was dignified and truly meaningful for the family as well as the participants. In my 11 years of performing taps at military funerals, I have only been thanked personally by family a handful of times. While I certainly didn’t expect anything, I was touched as Mr. Armstrong’s son and grandson approached me as they exited the ceremony and, in the middle of their grieving, took time to give me a heartfelt thank you.
The return trip back to the harbor was enjoyable and I was able to relax as the ceremony was complete. After enjoying a delicious lunch provided by the ship’s mess crew and touring a few of the ship’s spaces, I had the pleasure of spending a few moments with the ship’s senior enlisted Sailor, Command Master Chief (SW) Roy Hooper. We arrived back in port around 1230.
We flew back home that afternoon on another C-40A flight and arrived back at Joint Base Andrews in late afternoon.