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Ford Honored With State Funeral

  • Jim Bertel

It is a week of remembrance in the United States as the country pauses to pay tribute to the 38th President of the United States - Gerald Ford - who died Tuesday in California at the age of 93.

On Saturday, the body of the former president returned to Washington, DC, a place that was home to Mr. Ford for nearly 30 years, for four days of ceremonies steeped in years of history and tradition.

The former president's flag draped coffin arrived at Andrews Air Force base to begin the final journey to the place he spent much of his political life - the U.S. Capitol.

En route, in one of the evening's most poignant moments, the motorcade paused at the World War Two Memorial to honor the former President's Navy service during that war.

In a navy ritual dating back centuries, a bosun's pipe pierced the still night - a signal that a senior officer was coming aboard a ship.

A thundering 21 - gun salute heralded the arrival of the cortege at the Capitol.

With flags fluttering at half-staff, a military honor guard carried the coffin of the late president up the east steps of the Capitol to the House of Representatives to honor Mr. Ford's 24 years as a House member.

Inside the Capitol rotunda where the state funeral took place, Vice President Dick Cheney, other top members of the Bush administration, foreign diplomats and members of Congress watched as Mr. Ford's casket was placed upon a simple, catafalque, a wooden platform built in 1865 for the first president to lie in state there, Abraham Lincoln.

Vice President Cheney, who was Mr. Ford's White House chief of staff, paid tribute to the former President, saying he healed the country's wounds following the Watergate scandal that shattered the presidency of Richard Nixon.

"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford who led our republic safely through a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe."

Outgoing Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said President Ford's greatness lies not in what he did but in who he was.

"He represented the strength of the Middle America that forged him. He never changed. Even when power was thrust upon him he remained an everyman who exemplified all that is good about America."

President Ford's body will lie in state in the Capitol Sunday and Monday. Tuesday is a national day of mourning for Mr. Ford, when world leaders will join President Bush in paying their final respects during a national memorial service at Washington's National Cathedral. The former president will be buried Wednesday at his presidential museum in the Midwestern state of Michigan.

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