A private memorial service at the academy's chapel followed by a procession to the burial site was to mark the farewell Sunday to a man who lived a very public life. Invited along with family and friends were members of McCain's Class of 1958, military leaders and Brigade of Midshipmen.
One scheduled speaker at the service, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said he would tell the audience that "nobody loved a soldier more than John McCain, that I bear witness to his commitment to have their back, travel where they go, never let them be forgotten. 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."
Also expected to pay tribute to McCain, the former Arizona senator, GOP presidential nominee and prisoner of war, were David Petraeus, a retired general and former CIA director, and McCain's son Jack.
The private ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland, was as carefully planned as the rest of McCain's farewell tour, which began in Arizona after he died Aug. 25 from brain cancer and stretched to Washington.
On Saturday, speeches by his daughter Meghan and two former presidents - Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama - remembered McCain as a patriot who could bridge painful rivalries. But even as their remarks made clear their admiration for him, they represented a repudiation of President Donald Trump's brand of tough-talking, divisive politics.
"So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage," Obama said. "It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that."
McCain was gone, said Bush, who called his 2000 rival for the GOP presidential nomination a friend.
"John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder - we are better than this, America is better than this," Bush said.
But it was Meghan McCain's emotional remarks that most bluntly rebuked Trump, who had mocked her father for getting captured in Vietnam. At the pulpit of the spectacular cathedral, with Trump's daughter Ivanka in the audience, McCain's daughter delivered a broadside against the uninvited president.
"The America of John McCain," she declared with a steely stare, "has no need to be made great again because America was always great."
The audience of Washington's military, civilian and other leaders burst into applause.
With that, McCain's family, including his 106-year-old mother, Roberta, is escorting his remains to Annapolis on Sunday.
McCain's choice of burial location was as deliberate as the other details of his procession. He picked the historic site overlooking the Severn River over the grandeur of Arlington National Cemetery, where his father and grandfather, both admirals, are buried. Larson, McCain's beloved friend from their Class of 1958, had reserved four plots at the storied cemetery - two for McCain and himself, and two for their wives, now widows. Larson died in 2014, and McCain wrote in his recent memoir that he wanted to be buried next to his friend, "near where it began."
Trump was to remain in Washington. He spent Saturday tweeting and golfing in Virginia.
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