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In Top Gun (1986),

Goose dies,

and Maverick throws his dog tags into the sea.

animated GIF of Maverick throwing dog tags into the sea

Maverick was fond of this character, so why would he throw their dog tags away?

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1 Answer 1

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Maverick is honoring his friend. He died while on a ship, he's a sailor like the others on the ship, no matter what his job was. Maverick gave the sea the only thing he has left from him: Goose's ID tags. Goose wasn't buried at sea, with all due honors and rituals, so Maverick did his own ceremony. It is said that's also a way to soften the pain, a symbolic gesture of him letting go of the guilt he's felt over his friend's death. It can be both, as funeral are usually a way to do this: mourn, honor and move forward, as Maverick will do later when he goes back to flying with another RIO.

Burial at sea has long been a maritime tradition. From the vikings1 burning the body on a ship to the Middle Ages where the body was sewn into a weighted shroud, usually sailcloth before being sunk into the sea, what was first a way to honor the dead along getting rid of a body you couldn't keep on board for sanitary reasons, has long become a way to just honor the departed.

All other graveyards show symbols of distinction between great and small, rich and poor: but in the ocean cemetery, the king, the clown, the prince and the peasant are alike, undistinguishable. George Bruce, 1884, St Andrews.

More to read: Burial at sea - Marine tradition - Burial at Sea: A Time-Honored Tradition - Military

The Spirit Boat Procession (精霊流し, Shōrō nagashi) is an event celebrated in various places in Japan. During the procession, people float boats which are said to be carrying the spirits of the deceased down the river.

NOTE: according to Screenrant it might not be Goose's tags that Maverick is throwing into the sea, but that's another (intrepretation of the) story...

1. The ship burial is a viking funeral practice traditionally reserved for individuals of high honor. from Norse funeral

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  • Seems a little selfish though. He should have at least given the character’s family the opportunity to take custody of the dog tags if they wanted them (assuming the character had family—can’t remember)?
    – bob
    Apr 16 at 20:12
  • It's been discussed, some say they belonged to his son or wife.
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 16 at 20:17
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    In no version of the script I've read are the dog tags mentioned. When Maverick puts Goose's stuff in a box, there's a clock, book and other goods but no tags. He later gives the box to his wife.
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 16 at 20:54
  • It could also be a symbolic act of "letting it go" which is a bit of a trope in hollywood (like Rose threw the necklace at end of Titanic)
    – RedBaron
    Apr 17 at 4:57
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    They're from the Navy though
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 17 at 13:43

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