Military Retirement Ceremony

May 30, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Senior Chief Helfrich | United States Navy | Retirement Ceremony | USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) | Storming the Beach | Military Retirement & Event Photographer | Joan H Walker Photography | Norfolk Event Photographer

26 May 2016

When I received a phone call from Tom Gilfillan, inquiring as to my availability to photograph a retirement ceremony for GSCS(SW) Eric W. Helfrich, I didn't hesitate to say, "yes."  To me there is no event more patriotic than a military retirement, and one that absolutely should be covered with photographs that will last for generations to come. 

Of course, as I quickly found out, Senior Chief Helfrich's ceremony was not completely traditional, as he had arranged for his arrival to be by -- what else? -- boat!  Yes, he truly "stormed the beach" for his retirement ceremony.

I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day, and it was an added plus that a Navy destroyer was on the horizon as Senior Chief Helfrich's boat was pulling in to the ceremony in East Ocean View, Norfolk, Virginia at Mac's Place on the Bay.

 

The Color Guard now comes up the beach for the Parade the Colors.

The bagpiper, Jim Roberts also came up the beach, and then stood at attention during the playing of the National Anthem.

Time for speeches, presentations, awards and gifts.

And a few surprise gifts, including this clever one from Senior Chief Helfrich's wife, who is a Navy Lieutenant in the Nurse Corps.

Gifts to his wife...

And then a short and poignant speech from the man of the hour himself, Senior Chief Helfrich.

And then a more somber moment for the Passing of the Flag ceremony, which is a Navy tradition.  Sailors from the USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) stood single file from most junior to most senior, representing the ranks that Senior Chief Helfrich held during his 23 years of service.  The Navy Hymn is played during the passing of the flag from sailor to sailor, until the flag reaches its final recipient.  It goes without saying that there is rarely a dry eye at a retirement ceremony when this traditional ceremony is carried out.

The last stanza of Old Glory reads:

But my finest hour comes

When I am torn in strips

To be used as bandages for my wounded comrades on the field of battle.

When I fly half mast to honor my solders,

And when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving mother,

At the grace site of her fallen son or daughter

I am proud!

My name is "Old Glory"

Long may I wave, dear God.

Long may I wave.

The retirement ceremony ends with a passing of the Watch, and a final piping for "Going Ashore."

Congratulations, Senior Chief Helfrich, and thank you for your service.

 


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