By James Johnson
This year’s Veterans Day sail was a very special mission, helping Chief Joe Portillo’s soul find peace back at sea. The ash scattering ceremony took place in the Pacific Ocean, several miles off the California coastline at the request of a veteran who recently completed an indoctrination sail with WBFV.
Back in September, at the conclusion of a great day of sail training and camaraderie in SF Bay, Chris Hernandez (affiliated with Swords for Plowshares and Vet Supporting) simply asked if WBFV ever did ash scatterings for Veterans who’ve passed on. This was our first request for this type of ceremony. Fortunately we had not yet assigned a crew for the Veterans Day sail – so we were honored to be able to support the request and invite Chris’ friends and family to participate.
November 11th was sunny, calm, and a great chance to enjoy nature and reflect on the past service and memory of our honored guest. Joe Portillo was a highly decorated Navy Chief who served his country for two decades with over twenty men and women under his direction. It was his wish to return to sea, and his family had waited for the right situation so this could be done properly and with dignity.
Once we were a few miles out we sailed north towards the Marin headlands to find calm area out of the shipping lanes. The vets on the boat weren’t alone, as we were frequently flanked by dolphins along with numerous sightings of sea lions, pelicans, and other sea birds. After a few words were spoken about Chief Joe ‘Gusto’ Portillo’s family and service to country, his nephew Chris gently spread his ashes off the stern, returning Joe’s soul to sea while taps were played on trumpet by one of the crew. Rose petals were scattered over the ashes in his honor before heading back towards the Golden Gate bridge. A worthy mission for the all vet crew representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Navy Chief Joe Portillo, thank you for your service. May God bless your family and your soul.