HOUSTON (AP/RNN) — George H.W. Bush is now lying in state in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, where he was eulogized by Republican leaders on Monday.
Vice President Mike Pence called him an example whose “lifetime of service will be enshrined in the hearts of the American people forever.”
“He was a great leader who made a great difference in the life of this nation,” Pence said. “But he was also just a good man who was devoted to his wife, his family and his friends.”
He said the 41st president “left America and the world more peaceful, prosperous and secure.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, the majority leader, spoke first, praising Bush for his steady leadership.
“With his even temperament and hard-won expertise, George Herbert Walker Bush steered this country as straight as he steered that airplane,” he said, referring to Bush’s time as a Navy pilot in World War II.
House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, followed, and said Bush’s life “was a hymn of honor.”
The Senate chaplain, Barry Black, also gave a benediction
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid their respects hours after the ceremony ended. The two stood silently in front of Bush’s casket before the president saluted and his wife placed her hand over her heart.
Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, will lie in state from Monday through Wednesday. The public can pay their respects to him from 7:30 p.m. ET Monday to 8:45 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Sent off with a 21-gun salute, Bush earlier in the day left his beloved Texas for the final time. He headed to Washington as the nation paid tribute to a lifetime of public service that began in the Navy during World War II, ended with four years as president and was characterized throughout by what admirers say was decency, generosity and kindness.
A long motorcade accompanied the hearse carrying Bush’s remains from a Houston funeral home to nearby Ellington Field for the trip to the nation’s capital on an aircraft that often serves as Air Force One. Military artillery fired the salute, and servicemen carried the casket to the plane.
The crew was tasked by President Donald Trump with carrying out “Special Air Mission 41,” a reference to Bush’s place in the roster of America’s presidents.
Former President George W. Bush, the eldest of the four Bush sons, and his wife, Laura, along with brother Neil Bush and his family, boarded the plane for the cross-country trip to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.
There, his casket was met by scores of servicemen and a canon salute. Another canon salute was performed outside the Capitol Building, when it arrived there.
On Sunday, students, staff and visitors had flocked to Bush’s presidential library on the campus of Texas A&M University, with thousands of mourners paying their respects at a weekend candlelight vigil at a nearby pond and others contributing to growing flower memorials at Bush statues at both the library and a park in downtown Houston.
“I think he was one of the kindest, most generous men,” said Marge Frazier, who visited the downtown statue on Sunday while showing friends from California around.
A similar outpouring is anticipated in Washington this week during the state funeral for Bush, who died late Friday at his home in Houston. He was 94.
An invitation-only funeral service is set for Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. The president and the first lady are to attend. Bush’s family has not said who will speak at the service. Former President Jimmy Carter also will be there.
Afterward, Bush will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the library grounds. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
Retired Gen. Colin Powell, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was Bush’s top military adviser, said Bush was the “perfect American” for serving his country in so many different capacities and should be remembered for “a life of quality, a life of honor, a life of honesty, a life of total concern for the American people.”
Sully, Bush’s highly trained service dog, accompanied Bush’s casket to Washington, DC, according to CNN. The photograph of Sully lying next to Bush’s casket was posted Sunday on Twitter by Jim McGrath, the family’s spokesman with the caption “Mission Complete.”
The international nonprofit Points of Light founded by the 41st president asked the public to celebrate Bush by giving a day of service in his memory.
Trump has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.