Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, has been laid to rest.
Lautenberg was buried this morning at Arlington National Cemetery, as rain fell on umbrella-covered mourners who said goodbye not only to the late New Jersey Democrat, but to an era that has passed along with him.
A total of 115 World War II vets have served in the upper chamber. Now, there are none, and Lautenberg’s passing means Congress has lost some of its connection with a U.S. generation.
Lautenberg’s casket arrived in a hearse at a small grave site, two headstones away from former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s. As the rain amplified from a drizzle to a heavy downpour, and as planes to and from Ronald Reagan National Airport flew overhead, Lautenberg’s casket was carried by a joint military group of pallbearers – including two Army soldiers, two sailors, two marines, one Coast Guardsman and one airman – and Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington of Cape May, N.J., presented the flag from Lautenberg’s casket to the senator’s widow, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg.
In keeping with standard military honors, Army soldiers fired three volleys and an Army bugler played “Taps.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki were among the attendees, according to a Lautenberg aide who spoke with reporters before the ceremony began.
No other notable guests could be identified from the media staging area, about 20 yards away.
Two rabbis, Elliot Cosgrove of the Park Avenue Synagogue (where a memorial was held for the late senator Wednesday), and Air Force chaplain Steven Reim, spoke about Lautenberg’s commitment to the country and place in history.
Funeral prayers were sung in Hebrew as the rain picked up, drumming on the small graveside tents and the scores of umbrellas.
Lautenberg’s widow placed something small on the senator’s casket and covered it with the first bit of dirt from a shovel. Reporters were escorted away from their staging area and Lautenberg’s family filed by, adding more.
There are two World War II vets in the House: Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., 86, who today becomes the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, and Ralph Hall, R-Texas, 90.