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The line of march, celebrating a president's life

Friday, June 11, 2004

Dennis Ryan -- Pentagram newspaper, Fort Myer

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 Caisson with Reagan casket
U.S. Air Force photos by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi

Members of a joint honor guard escort the Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment caisson bearing President Ronald Reagan's flag-draped casket during his funeral procession to the U.S. Capitol.

 Casket team at transfer point
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Haggee renders honors as the flag-draped casket bearing former President Ronald Reagan's remains is moved to a horse-drawn caisson by a joint honor guard.

People came early to the corner of Constitution Avenue and 16th Street Wednesday to reserve a spot to view the casket transfer of President Ronald Reagan from a hearse to the Old Guard Caisson.

Pat Ingoglia, 60, came from Sacramento, Calif., to pay respects to a man she had known since the 1960s and later worked for. She and her friend Lou Barnett, 57, of Falls Church, wore Reagan campaign buttons from 1980.

"As a teenager I was part of the Reagan revolution," Ingoglia said. "I followed him to Sacramento as assistant secretary of education. He was genuine, with a sense of humor. I found him extremely intelligent. At many meetings he only had to hear it once. It was amazing to watch. He was a wonderful person to work for."

Barnett worked for the Citizens for the Republic, a political action committee Reagan started in the 1960s, and met him on a number of occasions.

 
A flight of F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, S.C., fly over the procession.

"When Reagan was talking to you, whether you were a doorman, a volunteer or a potentate, you felt he was talking only to you. He believed in something. I don't think God could have picked a better time to call him home."

The casket left the Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday morning for a cross-country trip on the plane normally designated Air Force One, but which now went by Special Air Force Mission. The plane arrived at Andrews Air Force Base shortly before 5 p.m. A hearse carrying Reagan and a cortege of vehicles traveled down Suitland Parkway through a bit of Southeast D.C. to Interstate 395 and then into Virginia and past the headquarters of the American military, the Pentagon, down the George Washington Parkway and across the Memorial Bridge to Constitution Avenue.

The crowd stretched five or six deep along Constitution near the Ellipse to witness a joint services honor guard carry the president's body in a time-honored tradition only the military can do.

The crowd emitted a roar when a small, dignified woman, instantly recognizable as former first lady Nancy Reagan, got out of a limousine just after 6 p.m. and walked down the street accompanied by Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

She looked at the crowd and smiled in appreciation for the warm greeting. Gen. Richard Myers led the Joint Chiefs in a salute to the former commander-in-chief who invested heavily in the military after years of post-Vietnam hand wringing.

 Boots reversed in stirrups
Riding boots worn by President Reagan are reversed in the stirrups of Sgt. York, the caparisoned horse whose empty saddle indicates a departed commander.

Americans were not the only people paying homage to Mr. Reagan. Elaine Jenkins, 46, a native of Great Britain but now living in the District, waited for hours in the heat to view the ceremony.

"I thought he was a wonderful man," she said. "British people loved him. He was a wonderful ambassador."

The casket was transferred to the caisson, and the 45-minute journey to the Capitol began.

A murmur rose through the crowd when a most striking member of the funeral cortege, the riderless horse, began to move.

The horse, Sgt. York, carried reversed boots in his stirrups in honor of a fallen leader, but they were not the traditional polished black ones normally used. They were a pair of light brown riding boots used frequently by the ex-president, who was a skilled horseman.

Sgt. Jared Keyworth tried to prepare for his assignment Wednesday just like any other mission, but when former first lady Nancy Reagan appeared on Constitution Avenue he realized it was going to be different.

Keyworth served as the "Cap" -- caparisoned horse -- walker for Sgt. York.

"It was an honor," Keyworth said. "[Sgt. York] was a little rambunctious every time the people started clapping. He was a little excited. After the first few times it happened he was fine."

Keyworth and the entire Caisson Platoon worked hard to make everything as perfect as possible for the ceremony.

"There's no way you can really prepare for a mission of that importance," Keyworth said.

While the Old Guard tries to treat every mission the same, Keyworth said he did find this one "amazing." He said he just had to keep his eyes straight ahead and maintain military bearing.

Vice-President Dick Cheney delivered a memorial speech in the Capitol Rotunda and called Reagan, "a graceful and gallant man."

The 40th president will lie in state at the Capitol until this morning before being transferred by motorcade to the National Cathedral for a memorial service, before returning to his final resting place in California.

 
U.S. Army photo by Jerome Howard

Mourners of the late president, Ronald Reagan, circle through the roped lines at the Capitol rotunda during the lying in state Thursday.