The "fouled anchor," symbol of the Chief Petty Officer

Retirement Ceremony of 
Chief Fire Controlman 
(Surface Warfare) 
Dennis A. Fain, USN

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Gallery 6: Presentation of the Retirement Flag, and the Passing-of-the-flag Ceremony, Video
in Windows Media Player Format
(Best, 25 MB), or with .

First, a little background...

Arizona Memorial  (Click to enlarge)Arizona Memorial - Photo by Chief Fain, taken from Ford Island.  (Click to enlarge)The USS Arizona Memorial is the final resting place for 1,002 of the 1,177 sailors that died when an 800kg bomb detonated her forward fourteen-inch powder magazine during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

The massive explosion broke the ship in two, and collapsed so many decks in the forecastle that the forward gun turrets and conning tower fell thirty feet into her hull.  A total loss, the superstructure and anything salvageable topside was removed, and the ship was left as a tomb for her lost sailors.

USS Arizona (BB-39) Underway.  (Click to enlarge)Detonation of the Arizona's Forward Powder Magazine.  (Click to enlarge)Arizona ablaze as she settles into the harbor.  (Click to enlarge)Arizona on the bottom of the harbor, after the fires were put out.  (Click to enlarge)

The Memorial was dedicated in 1962, and over time it has come to commemorate all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.

I visited the memorial with my wife in May, 2000, and was awestruck by the devastation, and by the sacrifice so many had made.  Since I was born in Honolulu, I requested that my retirement flag be flown over the USS Arizona in honor of twenty years of service to my country.  My request was granted, and that flag was now ready to be presented to me.

Throughout the ceremony so far, many had not seemed to notice a young Marine standing at attention to one side of the room.  In typical Marine fashion, SSGT DeGrasse had stood nearly motionless, cradling the flag that flew over the USS Arizona in his arms.  Now he marched over to stand by the Master of Ceremonies while the USS Arizona Certificate of Flag Presentation that accompanied my flag was read. 

SSGT DeGrasse holding the retirement flag.  (Click to enlarge)SSGT DeGrasse presenting the retirement flag. (Click to enlarge)USS Arizona Certificate of Flag Presentation.  (Click to enlarge)

This was the beginning of a very special traditional ceremony, the passing- of- the- flag.  The first notes of music were heard as the MC began reading the poem that would accompany the movements of the personnel during the ceremony.  The poem is "Old Glory."  The ceremony symbolizes my progress through the ranks during my Naval service.  The flag represents our country that I have proudly served, and this flag from the USS Arizona even more so.

Into the center aisle, a group marched, single-file.  They were arranged from junior to senior in rank towards the front of the room where I was standing.  The most junior person was a Seaman, as I was when I entered the Navy.  Closest to me was a Chief Petty Officer, my current rank.  

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In a slow, deliberate, emotionally-charged ceremony, the Marine presented the flag to the Seaman after receiving a slow salute.  Once the Seaman had the flag, the Marine rendered a slow salute to the Seaman.  The Seaman did an about-face.  Now a Third Class Petty Officer saluted and received the flag, then was saluted by the Seaman.  In this manner, the flag was passed on to the Second Class Petty Officer, the First Class Petty Officer, then the Chief Petty Officer.

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Finally, the Chief presented the flag to me.  As I stood there holding it, I bowed my head.  The audience thought this was part of the ceremony, too, but I was really just closing my eyes tightly for a moment, trying hard to fight back the tears welling up inside... the emotions were so much stronger than I had imagined.  I shouldn't have worried though - most of my guests had tears in their eyes, as well.  As I stood there, the presenting group did an about-face and marched away down the aisle, leaving me standing alone, cradling the flag in my arms as the Marine had done, close to my heart.

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After a few moments, I turned and stepped over to stand in front of my wife, Gladys.  Leaning forward, I presented the flag to her, since everything that is mine is hers as well.  I told her I loved her, then saluted her.  It is true that being a Navy Wife is one of the toughest jobs in the Navy.  She deserves all my love, my respect, and my thanks.

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Ceremony Participants

While my retirement ceremony was taking place in Virginia, another ceremony, much more solemn, was beginning in Pearl Harbor at the Arizona Memorial.  The flag was at half-mast while special tributes were made to the memory of those who perished at Pearl Harbor 59 years earlier.  Here are some photos taken of the Memorial that morning, and of the mighty USS Missouri moored nearby, as if standing silent watch over her fallen sister ship.  

I owe a special "Thank you"  to CDR Steven Brockett for offering to take these pictures for me, so that I would know how the Memorial looked that morning, as I was ending my active duty service to the country I love... a country for which so many have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Watch the video of my Passing-of-the-Flag Ceremony  
in Windows Media Player Format
(Best, 25 MB) or with 
(Streaming video - RealPlayer Basic 5.0 or above is required, available free) 

Note: Some historical photographs were found at the
Naval Historical Center website.

Go to the Retirement Ceremony main page
 


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