In Advance of Memorial Day, Eternal Reefs and Submarine Veterans Create First and Only Undersea Memorial to the 65 Lost U.S. Subs and 4,000+ Crew

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Today's ocean dedication off Sarasota’s coast created the On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef on the 51st anniversary of the loss of the USS Scorpion.

A submarine veteran salutes as he drops a tribute reef at the On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef site, honoring the 65 lost US submarines and 4,000+ crew.

“Today we recognized the heroes of The Silent Service that were lost on those 65 boats with well-deserved respect and honor. Appropriately, these memorials will continue to replenish the marine environment in which these submariners served,” said George Frankel, CEO of Eternal Reefs.

Today, Eternal Reefs and submarine veterans, veterans of other military branches, Sarasota officials and members of the public created the On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef, the first ever undersea memorial to the 65 American submarines lost since 1900, along with 4,000+ officers and crew. The new marine memorial is nine miles off the coast of Sarasota, Fla. and is the first and only memorial honoring the sacrifice of these submariners in the environment in which they served, the ocean.

Today is significant because it is the 51st anniversary of the loss of the U.S. nuclear sub the USS Scorpion (SSN 589), the last submarine to go On Eternal Patrol with all 99 officers and crew on 22 May 1968.

“This reef project is a beautiful thing and a good remembrance,” said Phil Orapallo from Lakewood Ranch, Fla., who served aboard the Scorpion as a quarter master and navigation expert in 1962, 1963 and 1964. “I was just a kid when she went down and the first thing I did was look on the list of missing for Mazzuchi and Bishop (chiefs of the boat) because they were like fathers to me.”

“It just brings back so many memories and made me think of their horrible death,” Orapallo said as he dropped a small tribute reef over the The Flying Fish’s stern in honor of the Scorpion, the final boat called in the Tolling of the Boats ceremony today.

In all, a group of 90 people in eight water craft gathered to dedicate the On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef. Aboard The Flying Fish, 58 veterans and other representatives dropped 65 tribute reefs decorated with red, white and blue flowers, one for each lost sub. The small, cement tribute reefs sunk to the bottom, while the flowers made a beautiful floating mosaic in the ocean.

With plenty of salutes, tears, respect and comradery, the hour-long ceremony included a site dedication and invocation by Rod Dimon (Chaplain American Legion Post 159), remarks by William Andrea (founding member US Submarine Veterans, Inc. – USSVI), and the deployment of six giant memorial reefs via crane to the ocean floor: the pinnacle reef; a USSVI reef and memorials to the four boats lost after WWII: the USS Cochino (SS-345), USS Stickleback (SS-415), USS Thresher (SSN-593) and the USS Scorpion (SSN-589). A Tolling of the Boats ceremony occurred, in which each of the 65 lost boats was announced, the ship’s bell sounded, and a tribute reef was dropped. Finally, all the boats circled the flower-laden reef site blowing horns and sirens to honor the ultimate sacrifice of those in The Silent Service honored at the site.

“It’s all about honor for me,” said James Jordan who served aboard on the USS Parche (SSN-683), the USS Daniel Webster (SSBN- 626), and the USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635); he dropped the tribute reef honoring the USS Pompano. “I looked out at all those floating flowers and imagined they were all the souls that had been lost coming up to the surface to let us know they’re all right now.”

“When you see a veteran, just smile or say ‘hi,’ because you don’t know what someone is going through and you never know how a small act like this can make a big difference,” said Jordan who moderates a closed Facebook group called OTS at Crush Depth with a mission to support the mental health of all submariners.

Each memorial is an individual reef ball, a designed artificial reef specifically engineered to mimic Mother Nature, which quickly assimilates into the ocean fostering significant new marine growth within 90 days. Each of the reef balls in the On Eternal Patrol collection weighs 1,300 pounds, stands three feet tall and includes an individual plaque identifying the lost submarine, its best-known last location and the number of officers and crew lost.

“Creating the On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef is literally a dream come true,” said George Frankel, CEO of Eternal Reefs. “Today we recognized the heroes of The Silent Service that were lost on those 65 boats with well-deserved respect and honor. Appropriately, these memorials will continue to replenish the marine environment in which these submariners served.”

As the summer months progress, the remaining 61 reefs in the entire 67-strong On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef will be deployed with assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Two USCG vessels are planned to facilitate the deployments: the Joshua Appleby, an offshore buoy tender, and the Vice, an inshore buoy tender. Eternal Reefs executives will coordinate closely with USCG personnel to deploy the final reef balls as weather permits.

The On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef site is in public waters nine miles off Big Pass in 45’ of water. GPS coordinates are: 27 15.795N 82 45.505W. See video of the On Eternal Patrol Memorial Reef project on YouTube and find a complete list of the boats On Eternal Patrol and those lost in non-sinking events, visit http://www.OnEternalPatrol.com.

A Sarasota-based 501c3 memorial organization, Eternal Reefs, Inc., planned the ambitious project, in partnership with Reef Innovations and The Reef Ball Foundation and dedicated it in a land side ceremony last Memorial Day weekend (27 May 2018). At that time each lost boat received full military honors, for many the first time to have received recognition. The project has garnered gubernatorial recognition from 25 states including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

About Eternal Reefs
The Genesis Reef Project dba Eternal Reefs, Inc. is a Sarasota-based non-profit organization that provides a creative, environmentally-enhancing way to memorialize the cremated remains of a loved one. Eternal Reefs incorporates cremains into a proprietary concrete mixture used to cast artificial reef formations which are then dedicated as permanent memorials which bolster natural coastal reef formations. Eternal Reefs pioneered the concept of reef memorialization and, since 1998, the organization has placed nearly 2,000 Memorial Reefs in 25 locations off the coasts of Florida (North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Gulf Coast and Panhandle), Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, substantially increasing the ocean’s diminishing reef systems. Memorial reefs can only go in properly permitted locations by the U.S. Government. Eternal Reefs has strategic partnerships with the Reef Ball Foundation and Reef Innovations. Learn more at http://www.EternalReefs.com or on the company’s Facebook page.

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Becky Peterson
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