By Lt. Diana R. Zamani, Region Legal Service Office Northwest
“Put your hand in a bucket of water; that’s the Navy with you in it. Now, take your hand out of that bucket. That’s the Navy without you; the Navy will be fine.” Capt. Michael Boock (Retired) recounted that while this metaphor may apply to some, the message does not adequately capture the reality of Master Chief Legalman (SW) Suzanne H. Burleigh’s impact on the Navy, and her influence on a generation of legalmen and Sailors. Boock instead asserted: “I believe that when Master Chief Burleigh takes her hand out of that bucket, a little water will go with her.” After 30 years of dedicated service, which included six deployments, one unaccompanied tour, and countless other sacrifices, Burleigh officially retired from the U.S. Navy on Friday, June 16, 2017, surrounded by friends, family, and colleagues at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash.
As the official guest speaker for the ceremony, Boock reminisced about his time serving with Burleigh and regaled the audience with several examples of Burleigh’s upstanding character. Capt. James Crisfield, Jr., commanding officer of Region Legal Service Office Northwest (RLSO NW), also spoke fondly of Burleigh’s service and presented her with several awards including letters from the former President of the United States, Barack H. Obama, and current Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SG/SW/IW) Steven S. Giordano. Burleigh was also presented with a shadow box, a coin holder from the RLSO NW Chief’s Mess, a ceremonial paddle from the Naval Base Kitsap Chief’s Mess, and a signed letter from Corey McIntyre of the San Francisco 49ers, presented by Chief Legalman (SCW) Dana Martinez.
Burleigh took to the podium to express gratitude to her fellow chiefs, her current and former enlisted Sailors, as well as officers and leadership with whom she has served. The most heartfelt moments came when Burleigh thanked her family members, one by one, for their sacrifice and loyalty throughout her extensive career.
A native of Turlock, Calif., Burleigh enlisted in the Navy on September 11, 1987. After completing boot camp, she graduated yeoman “A” School in December 1987. She was then stationed onboard USS Samuel Gompers (AD-37) where she completed three Western Pacific deployments. Burleigh was then transferred to Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Silverdale, Wash., in October 1991 and USS Shasta (AE-33) in January 1995. She remained on USS Shasta until it decommissioned in 1997, completing three deployments during that time.
Burleigh attended the Legalman Course at Naval Justice School, graduating in December of 1997. She reported to Navy Legal Service Office Northwest (NLSO NW), Bremerton, Wash., in January 1998, where she served as the command leading petty officer in Claims, Legal Assistance, Command Services, and Defense Departments. In February 2001, Burleigh transferred to Trial Service Office Europe SW Asia in Manama, Bahrain, for a one-year unaccompanied tour. She then reported onboard USS Bridge (AOE-10) in February 2002, where she served as the legal officer and departmental leading chief petty officer for the Executive Department. After decommissioning of USS Bridge in June 2004, Burleigh returned to NLSO NW as the senior enlisted leader. She transferred to RLSO NW in July of 2009, where she served as the command master chief.
After Burleigh delivered her remarks, the ceremony proceeded with the presentation and reading of “13 Folds” and “Old Glory,” as well as the reading of the “Retirement Creed” and “The Watch.” After the master of ceremonies, Master Chief Legalman (SW/AW) Jacquelyn Woodall, delivered an emotional tribute to Burleigh’s exceptional career, Burleigh was finally piped ashore, symbolizing the end of 30 years of distinguished naval service.