Sen. John McCain to be laid to rest at the US Naval Academy after a week of memorial services

Key Points
  • Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather, both admirals, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • But the straight-speaking former POW and senator chose to be laid to rest at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
  • Memorial services begin Wednesday — his 82nd birthday — at the Arizona State Capitol, where he will lie in state. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
NYSE observes moment of silence for Sen. John McCain
NYSE observes moment of silence for Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather, both admirals, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but the straight-speaking former POW, war hero, congressman, senator and two-time Republican presidential candidate chose to be laid to rest at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

After a private service at the school chapel on Sunday, McCain will be buried next to his Naval Academy classmate and lifelong friend, Adm. Chuck Larson, according to the Arizona Republican's office.

McCain, who survived nearly six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, succeeded Barry Goldwater to represent Arizona in the Senate, lost a White House bid to freshman Sen. Barack Obama and became an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, died Saturday at age 81. The senator's wife, Cindy, and family were at his side, his office said. Survivors include seven children and five grandchildren.

Read his full obituary: Sen. John McCain, hero POW, former presidential hopeful and maverick Republican, dies at age 81.

Also see: John McCain: Life and times of an American maverick in photos

McCain is to lie in state at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, which would have been his 82nd birthday. The public is invited to pay respects. A memorial service for invited guests is scheduled for Thursday at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau also died of brain cancer, will be among the speakers.

McCain's remains will then be flown to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and he will lie in state the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Friday for public viewing. A memorial service for invited guests is planned for Saturday at the Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama are among those expected to speak.

McCain and Larson were classmates at the Naval Academy and at the Naval Air Station Pensacola flight school. Larson graduated at the top of the Class of 1958 at the academy, while McCain ranked near the bottom. Larson went on to become commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and twice served as superintendent of the academy. He also was a naval aide to President Richard Nixon. He died of pneumonia at age 77 in 2014 after undergoing two years of treatment for leukemia.

During his 3½-decade congressional career, McCain was a conservative who rejected Republican orthodoxy, earning him the label "maverick." He backed campaign finance reform to limit corporate donations to candidates and was a leader in efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam, despite being held as a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He voted against a bill to make Martin Luther King's birthday a federal holiday but backed legislation to support his Native American constituents, including the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which opened the way for tribal casino development.

And he was a thorn in the side of Trump, who during the 2015 presidential campaign said McCain was "not a war hero" because he had been captured by North Vietnam.

McCain died a day after his family announced that "with his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment" for brain cancer. He underwent surgery last summer. Nearly two weeks after the surgery, he marched into the Senate to a standing ovation and cast the deciding vote that killed the Senate GOP's "skinny" bill to repeal Obamacare — at 1:29 a.m.

"From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called 'skinny repeal' amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals," McCain said in a statement. "We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve."

Trump never forgave him. In signing what Congress called the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, the president omitted the dying senator's name while reading the title of the bill at the ceremony earlier this month.

People close to the senator informed the White House that McCain wanted Vice President Mike Pence, but not Trump, to attend his funeral. It a tweet after McCain's death, Trump offered his "deepest sympathies" to McCain's family but had no praise for the senator.

In a September 2017 interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," McCain said the devastating brain cancer diagnosis made him appreciate his life.

"I have feelings sometimes of fear of what happens. But as soon as I get that, I say, 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You've been around a long time, old man. You've had a great life,'" he told CBS.

"You just have to understand that it's not that you're leaving. It's that you ... stayed. I celebrate what a guy who stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy has been able to do. I am so grateful. I, every night when I go to sleep, I am just filled with gratitude."

In the interview, he expressed a wish for a memorial service at Annapolis. "I want, when I leave, that the ceremony is at the Naval Academy, and we just have a couple of people that stand up and say, 'This guy, he served his country.'"