Our Commemoration Process
Veterans Memorial Reef is a non-profit veteran organization that allows veterans to be placed at sea off the coast of Carolina Beach, NC. Their ashes are mixed and inserted into specially crafted ocean friendly memorial markers. These memorial markers honor our veterans, celebrate their legacy, honor the families, and provide a solution to the dwindling availability of land for burial plots. Once they are placed in the ocean on the final day of our three day ceremony they will help preserve, rehabilitate and protect our natural ocean reef ecosystems.
Memorial Process – 3 days
VMR has developed a sequence of events that are scheduled over a period of 3 days. These events will begin on Friday and culminate on Monday (weather permitting). Each family member or representative will be assigned a personal VMR liaison. This liaison will be their contact before, during, and after the process to help with any questions/concerns that might arise.
Family members and representatives are encouraged to participate in all events but are not required to, however we will require a head count for the Dedication Ceremony on Monday since boat spots are limited.
Day 1 - Memorializing
Once the Memorial Marker (artificial reef section) has been completed, family members will gather at a designated location to transfer cremains into an aquatic urn.
This urn will then be incorporated into the Memorial Marker. During the memorial phase family members are able and encouraged to personalize their markers. They can attach personal mementos, inscribe personal messages, leave impressions of their hands, etc. When completed this marker will be permanently affixed to the reef at the dedication ceremony.
Day 2 - Ceremony
The family is invited to view the Memorial Markers and arrange either a private ceremony or military honors ceremony. The honors ceremony is conducted outdoors, and usually takes place the day after the markers have been memorialized so please check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
Military honors may be presented during this phase if eligible. The Honor Guard and service-specific personnel will conduct the ceremony. This may include a flag detail, rifle detail, and musical detail. Taps will be played, followed by the flag folding ceremony. After the flag is presented, the families will be able to spend time with the deceased family member and take photos with the flag and Memorial Marker. Each deceased service member will receive honors individually.
Please provide us with a copy of your loved one’s DD-214 as early in the process as possible so that we can make proper arrangements. This will allow us time to coordinate with the Veterans Administration and local military establishments to provide military honors.
Day 3 - Dedication
Family members will have an opportunity to board a boat(s) to transit out to the reef site where they will meet up with the barge that will be carrying the Memorial Markers for their placement onto the reef. This usually takes place two days after the ceremony – weather and boat accommodations permitting. The ultimate decision on whether or not the markers can be placed that day will be dictated by North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries.
We will notify the family of the exact time and location to report to the charter boat. The boat is scheduled to leave the dock at 8:00 AM. Please plan to arrive 30 minutes early so a manifest can be conducted for accountability. The family boat will then transit out to the reef site (about two hours) to meet the barge where the final dedication ceremony will take place.
We will notify each family before the placement of their Memorial Marker. We will provide flowers for the dedication (you are welcome and encouraged to bring your own flowers as well). The family will be afforded time to come to the vessel’s bow to pay their final tribute. This will allow the families time to take photographs, speak a few words if desired, and to view the placement of their loved ones. The name of each individual will be announced before final placement and a short nautical tribute will be conducted for each veteran. After all of the Memorial Markers are placed, the family will be allowed additional time to say their goodbyes.
After the final tribute has been completed and all Memorial Markers have been placed the boat will circle the reef before heading back to the dock. The transit time to and from the site will be weather-dependent but usually runs around 2 – 3 hours round trip. The number of individual ceremonies will vary as well. Please coordinate departure times for your return home accordingly.
Please be conscious of the weather and dress appropriately. The boat ride to and from the reef site can be wet from sea spray. It is recommended you bring medication if you are prone to motion sickness and remember to stay hydrated.
Wilmington is known for its historic atmosphere, delicious dining, magnificent galleries, and enjoyable shopping. It is a port city in North Carolina and a gateway to Cape Fear Coast beaches like Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure. Wilmington spans across the Cape Fear River, where the Battleship North Carolina is moored. You can find artifacts from the ship and explore WWII naval combat history.