Sen. John McCain’s body has arrived to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, beginning three days of Washington area memorials that will trace McCain’s long career in reverse – from the halls of the Senate to the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
An honor guard of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines carried McCain’s flag-draped casket up the Capitol’s East steps about 10:45 a.m., as heavy rain fell.
A memorial service began at 11 a.m.. Leaders of the House and Senate and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to speak in the building’s cavernous Rotunda.
McCain, a former Republican nominee for president, died Aug. 25 from brain cancer. He was 81.
In the Capitol service, McCain was lauded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who began by joking that McCain was so stubborn that his Senate colleagues sometimes needed a support group.
“Half a world away, wearing our nation’s uniform, John McCain stood up for every value that this Capitol Building represents,” McConnell said, referring to McCain’s service as a Navy pilot, and his five-and-a-half years in captivity as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. “Then, he brought that same patriotism inside its walls – to advocate for our service members, our veterans, and our moral leadership in the world.
“So it is only right that today, near the end of his long journey, John lies here,” McConnell said.
At 1 p.m. Friday, after the conclusion of the Capitol service for McCain, the public will be allowed in to file past McCain’s casket – beginning a viewing that will last until 8 p.m. An honor guard of U.S. Capitol Police will then stand vigil overnight.
By 10 a.m. on Friday, hours before doors opened for the public viewing, people had already begun to line up in sweltering August heat.
Billy Endress, a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran from New Jersey, was among those in line to say goodbye to McCain. “I’m here to pay respects to a hero,” Endress said.
Rich Washburn, 73, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, took the train from his hometown north of Philadelphia.
“He had his own values and he put other people first,” Washburn said of McCain. “After his military experience, a lot of guys would have quit, and rightly so. And he just kept going and gave 35 more years to his country.”
Inside the Capitol, other senators and dignitaries had already begun to arrive, sharing memories of McCain’s six terms in the Senate.
“Today I’ll be remembering friendship. We’d sometimes get into big arguments on the floor. Two minutes we’d be in the backroom with our arms round each other laughing our heads off,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.
“I remember very much the day I said goodbye to him, it was very emotional,” Leahy said. “It was here, we met quietly, just the two of us. We knew he wasn’t coming back. We talked about old times.”
The ceremony Friday comes after two days of tributes for McCain in Arizona. A memorial service will be held at Washington National Cathedral on Saturday with eulogies from former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and a private burial will take place on Sunday at the Naval Academy.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Gabriel Pogrund, David A. Fahrenthold