Baptisms aboard naval vessels are historically significant. They date back to when infants were born aboard British Royal Navy ships. Even today, after a baptism, the participants' names are engraved on the inside of the ship's bell, forever making the person a part of the ship's history.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) has three names already etched in its bell. Five more will be added after a recent baptism aboard, Oct. 27.
The service members baptized included Yeoman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Meghan Beaston, Quartermaster 3rd Class (SW) Braxton Klett, Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class (SW/AW) Damion Pleasant, Marine Sgt. Raymond Bankes II, and Marine Cpl. Jonathan Pearson. They shared their unique experience about their decisions to get baptized during deployment.
“They came to know God, and they wanted to be baptized,” said Joel Morton, Boxer’s chaplain. “It was an expression of what’s going on in the inside. It takes real courage, to make that known to everybody.”
Some people feel like everything in life happens for a reason, they call it luck or chance. For one Marine it was a matter of faith.
“It’s just something that I felt was my time to have done and the fact that I came to know Christ onboard Boxer definitely lead to my decision to be baptized,” said Pearson from Chino Valley, Ariz.
Pearson’s mentor brought him to see Chaplain Roach after he received devastating news from home. He and his wife Amanda found out they had lost their unborn child.
“Outwardly I looked and acted fine but inwardly I was full of anger, discontent, and I was extremely depressed to the point where I was slowly starving myself,” said Pearson. “But, with their help I found my way to the feet of God and asked him for his forgiveness and to accept me into his Kingdom.”
The experience was a chance for him to heal from the inside out. He was also able to share it with everyone during the ceremony held in the ship’s hangar bay.
The unique baptismal service was held amidst busy flight operations, where the service was momentarily paused at times for helo landings that showered the crowd with rotor wash and when a bell or whistle sounded over the shipboard announcing system.
“It added to the ambiance,” said Morton. “At sea it’s never quiet. It was just like a normal mission, you could definitely tell you’re at sea.”
For Klett it was made extra special because of who baptized him.
“I was honored that he would ask me,” said Quartermaster 1st Class Brandon Pockell from San Diego.
Pockell, his Leading Petty Officer (LPO), came to the Navigation department shortly before deployment began. He encouraged his junior Sailors to join him for service one night and the rest they say is history.
“That night five of us shared communion together,” said Pockell. “I think our whole division shares a very close relationship because we share our faith and encourage each other spiritually.”
It was that event and Klett's own interest which sparked more conversations and led to his decision to be baptized aboard Boxer.
“He’s my spiritual mentor,” said Klett, from Fort Madison, Iowa. “I understood the faith, but was not involved or really cared to be involved. When he came aboard he broke it down for me in details that I could relate to.”
Another Sailor wanted to start living his life for Christ to set a good example for his son.
I haven't been living the life that Christ wants me to live,” said Pleasant from Floydada, Texas. “I want to be the best role model possible for him because I never had a strong religious role model father when I was growing up.”
His coworkers, friends and peers on the ship who make up his Navy family attended the baptism to show their support for him.
Having the support from everyone, my LPOs, chief, friends it was a huge deal for me,” added Pleasant. “Growing up I never had much support in the things I did, I usually did a lot on my own. So having the support from everyone there was very comforting.
The joint service event brought together the chaplain’s from Boxer, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Air Combat Element, who each brought a different talent to the service, which included singing, storytelling, scripture reading and prayer.
“I love the outcome, said Morton. “It was encouraging to see people who work with them come and support them.”
Although the Sailors and Marines had different reasons for getting baptized aboard Boxer, they shared the experience together.
“I think it's a great thing the ship's chaplains did for us on Sunday, it couldn't have gone any better, the whole experience and support,” said Bankes II from Beverly, Ohio, who was also baptized. “It's something I'll always remember and I know the other Marines and Sailors will too.”