By Elaine Owen, Editor
Sen. John McCain’s final journey ended on a grassy hill at the U.S. Naval Academy within view of the Severn River and earshot of midshipmen present and future, and alongside a lifelong friend. McCain chose to forego the traditional choice of Arlington National Cemetery in favor of being buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery near his longtime friend and fellow Admiral Chuck Larson who died in 2014.
A horse-drawn caisson carrying the senator’s casket led a procession of mourners from the Academy’s chapel to its Cemetery Sunday, following a private service. The U.S. Navy band played marches along the way and several hundred Naval Academy midshipmen lined the path.
The senator’s widow, Cindy, and his children were among those who walked behind the caisson. Joining them were family and friends as well as members of McCain’s Class of 1958 and military leaders.
After the American flag was removed from the casket, a grieving Cindy McCain pressed her cheek to its surface and McCain sons Jimmy and Jack shared a hug. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented flags to Cindy McCain and Roberta McCain, the senator’s 106-year-old mother.
A flyover of military aircraft in ‘missing man’ formation honored the Navy pilot who was shot down over Vietnam and held more than five years as a prisoner of war. The missing man flyover formation aerial salute took place at about 4 p.m. as the final event in a week honoring the six-term senator from Arizona.
Four F-18 planes moved through the sky above the U.S. Naval Academy in the shape of a V before the lead plane pulled up vertical, signalizing the passing of the fallen aviator and statesman.
The formation is reserved for a funeral or memorial event for pilots and military personnel.
Those offering tributes or readings during the funeral service included Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain sons Jack and Douglas, retired Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director, and Mark Salter.
Sen. McCain’s funeral drew 24 members of the U.S. Senate and more than 3,000 others whose lives he touched.
Sunday’s funeral and burial marked the end of more than a week of public mourning for McCain, who died Aug. 25 at age 81 after a 13-month fight with an aggressive form of brain cancer.