Capt. Pat Hannifin, commanding officer of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and Capt. Forrest Young, commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, lay a wreath into the Coral Sea during a remembrance ceremony, July 26. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Jason Tarleton)

CORAL SEA - Sailors aboard the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, held a wreath laying ceremony in commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea July 26, a year after the wreckage of the USS Lexington (CV-2) was discovered.

Cmdr. Jennifer Bowden, Ronald Reagan’s chaplain, said the Battle of the Coral Sea Commemorative Association invited representatives from Ronald Reagan to meet families connected to the battle during a recent port visit to Brisbane, Australia for Talisman Sabre 2019. The association presented Ronald Reagan’s crew with the wreath used during the ceremony. “It’s really to commemorate the efforts of the U.S. to protect Australia because they still find great value in what we did.”

The ceremony marks the 77th anniversary of the battle and is the first time in history a wreath was laid at the exact site of where the Lexington sank.

The ceremony hit home for a few Sailors of Ronald Reagan’s crew, including Lt. Nicholas Fessler, Ronald Reagan’s assistant security officer.

Fessler’s great-grandfather, Chief Petty Officer Paul Mueleveld, was a survivor from Lexington’s crew that was awarded a U.S. Navy Marine Corps Medal with a citation from the President of the United States for saving five of his shipmates’ lives during the engagement and carrying each of their bodies from a fire poised to swallow all of them whole.

“Being able to navigate directly over the top of the USS Lexington, taking that moment of silence, puts in to perspective what was below us. Just imagining the potential challenges, they were facing that day—it was extremely humbling,” said Fessler.

Fessler also expressed his surprise when he realized just how important the Battle of the Coral Sea was for Australians then and now.

“You know about it from a naval history standpoint but you really don’t know what it means to the country of Australia and the significance our role in the Battle of the Coral Sea played in ensuring their freedom and securities as well,” said Fessler.

The Ronald Reagan’s strike group recently completed Talisman Sabre 2019. The purpose of Talisman Sabre is to strengthen and illustrate Australian-U.S. combat readiness and interoperability, maximize combined training opportunities, and conduct maritime pre-positioning and logistics operations in maritime and littoral training areas of the Pacific.

Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo- Pacific region.

Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Johnathan Groves stands with a ceremonial wreath. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Jason Tarleton)

Sailors observe a moment of silence in the hangar bay during the remembrance ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Janweb B. Lagazo)

Rear Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of Task Force 70, speaks during the ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Janweb B. Lagazo)