My Navy retirement shadowbox and ceremony. Thanks, guys (and gals)

What is a shadowbox, you ask?

According to some accounts of naval history and tradition, when a sailor retires and is departing the ship for the last time, it’s considered bad luck for the sailor’s shadow to touch land before he/she does. Thus, the sailor’s shipmates would construct a sturdy box, hand-crafted of the finest materials, in which to display mementos of the sailor’s accomplishments — thereby symbolically creating a “shadow” of the sailor. The box safely contains the sailor’s “shadow” until he/she is safely ashore, at which time the shadow box can be given to the sailor in a presentation ceremony.

Historically, when a sailor would join a ship’s crew, he would join that ship for his entire career. During the sailor’s voyages to ports of call around the world, he would collect many trinkets, souvenirs, and reminders of his travels. Naturally, as space aboard ship was at a premium, these items tended to be small. When the sailor piped ashore for the last time, his shipmates saw to it that a special ceremonial box was constructed for him. The box would hold all the possessions that had been collected during those many voyages, a and would simultaneously symbolize the sailor’s career and time aboard ship.

Ideally, a shadow box serves not only as a reminder of achievements and accomplishments, but also as a summation, a culmination, of a career. A shadow box should enable a stranger glancing at its contents to gain a substantial understanding of the owner’s past service and achievements.

Most are still constructed of wood, encasing unit patches, a ribbon bar, medals, maybe even a flag. This being the digital age, I opted for this, printed on canvas and framed by Jim at Museum Quality Framing;

Pretty cool! Thanks to the guys at the 303 1st Class Mess and the Skipper and crew at VTU1213G, who presented on the grinder at Bldg 813. Pictures here.


About Erick Brockway

Living in Camarillo, CA, about 45 miles North of LA. I have a son, and two daughters. Working two jobs (welcome to California life), plus a (now retired) reservist in the US Navy Seabees so life is busy!
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2 Responses to My Navy retirement shadowbox and ceremony. Thanks, guys (and gals)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention My Navy retirement shadowbox and ceremony. Thanks, guys (and gals) « A TowDog --

  2. Congrats on retirement! Wish I could have been there — love the shadowbox~


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