John McCain was laid to rest Sunday on a green hill at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Md. alongside the classmate who was his “wing man” and lifelong friend.
The Vietnam War hero, maverick senator and two-time presidential candidate was bid farewell in a private ceremony beside the Severn River by his closest family members and friends, along with military dignitaries and members of his academy Class of 1958.
The Arizona senator’s final resting place is the cemetery near the fields and classrooms where he and his friend, Admiral Chuck Larson, met as young men six decades ago.
The senator died Aug. 25 from brain cancer at age 81.
A non-conformist to the end, McCain chose to be buried at the academy instead of Arlington National Cemetery with his father and grandfather, both Naval admirals.
“I want to smell the rose-scented breeze and feel the sun on my shoulders,” McCain wrote in his May memoir.
“I want to watch the hawks hunt from the sycamore, and then take my leave bound for a place near my old friend Chuck Larson, in the cemetery on the Severn, back where it began.”
Larson and McCain were Naval Academy roommates; Larson, who died in 2014, is a former academy superintendent who had reserved four burial plots for himself, McCain and their spouses.
Before the burial, McCain’s widow, Cindy, his sons Jack and Don, daughter Meghan and his 106-year-old mother, Roberta, joined mourners at a memorial service at the academy’s chapel.
In attendance were former CIA director and Army General David Petraeus and Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), a long-time political ally and one of McCain’s closest friends.
“Nobody loved a soldier more than John McCain,” Graham earlier said he planned to tell mourners at the chapel.
“There’s a lesson to be learned this week about John McCain,” Graham told “Fox News Sunday.”
“Number one, Americans appreciate military service … If you work hard and do your homework and know what you’re talking about, people will listen to you. That if you pick big causes bigger than yourself, you’ll be remembered,” he said.
“He tried to drain the swamp before it was cool, that you can fight hard and still be respected. If you forgive, people appreciate it, and if you admit to mistakes, you look good as a stronger man.
“Why do we remember this man? Because of the way he conducted his public life.”
“I bear witness to his commitment to have their back, travel where they go, never let them be forgotten,” Graham added.
“The public may be tired of this war called the war on terrorism, but John McCain never was. And he had their back and he gave them what they need to win a fight we can’t afford to lose.”
Following the service, the senator’s casket was carried in a horse-drawn caisson from the academy’s chapel to its cemetery, with McCain’s widow, Cindy, and children among those following it on foot.
At about 4 p.m., a flyover of military aircraft honored the former Navy pilot. The aircraft flew in what is called a “missing man formation,” in which one aircraft abruptly veers away, in honor of McCain’s military service.
McCain spent five years as an injured prisoner of war in Hanoi, during which he suffered years of solitary confinement and brutal interrogations that left him in pain throughout his life and unable to lift his arms over his head.
Among the pallbearers were Frank Gamboa, another academy roommate; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; and two men who were POWs with McCain in Vietnam — Col. Everett Alvarez Jr. and John Fer, a retired Naval commander who spent two years as McCain’s cellmate in the Hanoi Hilton.
Alvarez, a fellow Navy man who was the first US pilot to be downed and taken captive during the Vietnam War, endured eight years in captivity, making him the second-longest-held POW in US history.
Several hundred people lined the streets outside the academy, some holding signs of tribute.
“Senator John McCain Thanks for Serving! Godspeed!” read one.
Read another, “Rest in Peace Maverick.”
Many of the onlookers broke into applause as the hearse bearing McCain’s body passed into the academy gates.
Others held their hands over their hearts or waved small American flags.
A few shouted, “God bless you.”
Earlier Sunday, two of McCain’s dearest friends praised his daughter’s fiery eulogy, which had taken pointed shots at President Trump.
“She did it magnificently,” said former Sen. Joe Lieberman on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And she did it the way her dad would want her to do it.”
“Yesterday, I was a very proud uncle,” Lieberman added of Meghan, who calls him and Graham her uncles.
In an emotional tribute Saturday, Meghan McCain drew bipartisan applause when she directly mocked Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, saying, “The America of John McCain does not need to be made great again, because America was always great.”
Graham, also an ally to Trump, said he too was very “proud” of Meghan.
“She’s a beautiful, talented young lady,” Graham said. “She is her father’s daughter. If you say something bad about her dad you will know it, whether you are the janitor or the president of the United States. She is grieving for the father she adored.”
Trump, who routinely criticized McCain and once declared the Vietnam POW wasn’t a war hero, wasn’t invited to the funeral. Instead, former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush eulogized the late senator and praised McCain’s character and service.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, however, did attend, as well as other members of Trump’s staff and cabinet.
Lieberman said he spoke with Ivanka and Jared after the funeral and the two White House aides were not offended by the anti-Trump rhetoric.
“There were no complaints,” Lieberman said. “They felt the whole service was a great tribute to him and elevating.”
Meghan McCain, a co-host of ABC’s “The View,” set the tone for the funeral with her opening eulogy by drawing contrasts between her father and those currently in power.
“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness,” McCain said. “The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege.”