Despite pandemic, sailors hold 21-gun salute at Naval Station Norfolk


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — With a lot fewer people around, but with honor still in their hearts, a group of sailors upheld a tradition to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“I think it’s important even though we’re in the midst of this pandemic to honor those who have fallen… It’s a real honor to come out here and be able to do this,” said U.S. Navy Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Clinton Schaaf.

The saluting battery from NAVSTA Norfolk’s Security Department fired a single shot at one-minute intervals until the 21-gun tribute was complete.

The salute took place at the USS Iowa Memorial — which honors the 47 sailors who were killed on board the USS Iowa when one of the ship’s turrets exploded in 1989.

“It was like something you probably see in a movie mostly, not in real life. It was a tragedy. Very, very bad,” recalled veteran Joseph Picou.

Picou visits the memorial often.

He was on board when the tragedy happened — a day he’ll never forget.

“Every time I come out I say a prayer… I say a prayer put the flag down and walk around for a while and then after that I leave. I’ll always remember them all the time,” Picou said with tears in his eyes.

Picou stood tall as the canon was fired.

For each casing that fell, there was a moment to reflect.

“To all my shipmates and everybody else who might be looking at this later on, keep us in your prayers. Keep them in your prayers. Thank you,” Picou said.

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