PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- Students, staff and faculty at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center gathered May 31 to pay tribute to Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason M. Steen, who died unexpectedly while camping with friends May 19.

Steen, 41, was a boatswain's mate for eight years before reporting to the Center for Information Dominance Unit Monterey for DLIFLC Arabic basic-course.

Lt. Cmdr. Thor Martinsen, CIDU Monterey commanding officer, gave the ceremony's opening remarks, where he described Steen as a "great sailor, student and shipmate [who] will be sorely missed."

Throughout Steen's time at CIDU, he established himself as a dedicated and highly skilled petty officer and quickly gained the respect of his subordinates, peers and staff. He was well known throughout the command as a leader of physical fitness. "BM2," as he was called by his Navy rank, co-coached the command softball team, was a member of the command soccer team, ran in local marathons, and continuously encouraged fellow sailors to be more physically active.

During the memorial ceremony, a few of Steen's friends reminisced and shared stories of their time with him.

"While stationed with Jason at Marine Squadron One in Little Creek, Virginia, the command was already populated with high-performing, dedicated sailors," said Navy Lt. Matt Georges. "We were expeditionary in nature, and it demanded a certain level of character and courage to begin with. That being said, Jason stood out even among those sailors, due to his maturity and his cool headedness. Both junior and senior sailors at the command looked to him for guidance. Even the officers went directly to him for training, due to his experience."

"BM2 always told it like it is, and today we honor him as the funny, outrageous, dependable, honest and crazy kind of guy that he was," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Zalinsky, a close friend and language tutor to Steen. "He had an easy-going, laid-back attitude, was a family man and did everything for his family. With that said, and on a lighter side of things, we will always remember his mustache. I don't think I will ever see another mustache quite like BM2's."

"BM2 was a guy who could relate to anyone," said Seaman Melissa Klotz. "He touched a lot of people and a lot of people are better off knowing him. There aren't many people in life that are like that, so I personally feel lucky to have had him in my life."

"BM2 was in my Arabic class and I feel that he was an inspiration to us all," said Seaman Jessica White. "He always told me that he was giving up time with his family so that he could learn Arabic and be a reliable translator for the service members that are serving in the Middle East."

"I think one thing everybody always says at a time like this is, 'You're never going to forget the person who passed away,'" said Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Lackey. "I think that it will be an easy job for all of us to not forget Jason, because he made such a lasting impression in our lives."

Closing remarks for the memorial ceremony were presented by CIDU Command Master Chief Petty Officer Loren Bailey.

"The boatswain's mate rating is the oldest rating in the United States Navy and the first of the three original ratings. As long as there has been a U.S. Navy a boatswain has stood the watch. Through the centuries boatswains have been known to be leaders, mentors and experts at on-the-job training. It is in a boatswain's fiber, it is their moral makeup, to lead, mentor and pass on wisdom, and we heard that today. That's who BM2 was, and today I see dozens upon dozens of us that BM2 has trained and mentored, in one way, shape, or form.

"BM2 gave us leadership. He helped each of us realize our potential. He mentored us. Whether it was in the classroom, the barracks, on the sports field, or at quarters each morning, he was there passing along his wisdom. And as we say our final farewell today and we move forward, we can make sure that BM2's service will live forever in the lessons, the mentorship and the wisdom. There is no better way to honor him than with our own honorable, courageous and committed service. Honor BM2. Capture, embrace and live the spirit of a boatswain."

Throughout Steen's Navy career he was awarded five Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals and two Good Conduct Medals, earned three warfare insignia pins, and numerous campaign medals.

Steen is survived by his wife and four children.

The cause of death is under investigation.