At Sea - Sampson conducted the ceremony while anchored in “Iron Bottom Sound” between Salvo Island and Honiara (Henderson Air Field) the objective of the battle, now Guadalcanal’s capital approximately five miles from where the USS Astoria was last seen afloat almost exactly 70 years earlier.
The ceremony was conducted on the flight deck of the guided missile destroyer. At 0805, upon the completion of morning colors on August 8, 2012 Culinary Specialist Second Class Assou Koutouati, the ship’s Lay Leader began the ceremony with a reading from scripture. A wreath was placed over the side of the flight deck while Sampson’s executive officer, Cmdr. Teresa Elders, cited the committal and benediction. The Honor Guard came to attention and each fired three rounds as Henry Whitehurst was honored. Following the sounds of shell casings hitting the steel deck was the playing of “Taps” as six Sailors folded the national ensign. “I wanted to be part of this ceremony today since my grandfather served in the Navy here seventy years ago,” remarked Seaman Kyle Greer, one of Sampson’s ceremony participants. Upon the completion of “Taps”, the national ensign was presented to Sampson’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Dwayne D. Ducommun, as he rendered a slow, ceremonious salute. Ens. Henry Whitehurst was finally laid to rest in the hallowed waters where he made the ultimate sacrifice.
Richard Totino, Commander of American Legion Post 539, located in New Bern, NC, asked his step-son, Lt. jg. Nicholas Hurley, the assistant operations officer onboard Sampson if he thought his ship would support a ceremony for Ens. Whitehurst, the man to whom Post 539 is dedicated. Since young Ens. Whitehurst was from New Bern, NC, and still has family in the area, Mr. Totino’s Post wanted to surprise his family with a package containing an encased American flag, pictures, video, and other items from the burial at sea ceremony to show their appreciation for Henry’s ultimate sacrifice for his country. Sampson’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Ducommun stated, “We were honored to conduct this ceremony for Ens. Whitehurst. The crew is awestruck and privileged to be in the same waters where the crucial battles for the Pacific occurred seventy years ago.”
USS Sampson deployed from San Diego, CA in February 2012 and is currently operating in the seventh fleet area of operation in support of maritime security operations.