Last Journey of Sen. Robert Byrd

By: JOHN RABY & JIM ABRAMS - Associated Press Writers
By: JOHN RABY & JIM ABRAMS - Associated Press Writers

Robert C. Byrd was instrumental in stopping the federal government from transferring Air National Guard cargo planes out of West Virginia.

On Thursday, the Guard is saying thanks one last time.

A C-130 is flying the late U.S. senator's casket from Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base to Charleston's Yeager Airport Thursday evening for an overnight public viewing and Friday memorial service.

Byrd's close friend, state Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett, is in charge of seeing that the casket and body are returned to Andrews Friday afternoon.

Tackett says Byrd helped secure federal funding for the C-130s and thwarted attempts at taking them away. So it's fitting that one of those aircraft is carrying the senator to his final homecoming.

In Washington, D.C., the Senate chamber echoed with impassioned speeches from Sen. Robert C. Byrd for 51 years. Now the nation's longest-serving senator, who died Monday at the age of 92, is making his final visit.

The body of the West Virginia Democrat will lie in repose for six hours Thursday in the Senate chamber.

At mid-afternoon, the casket will be carried from the Capitol for its flight to Charleston, West Virginia for the viewing in the rotunda of the West Virginia statehouse.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will attend a memorial service Friday morning outside the statehouse.

Then Byrd's body will be flown back to Washington for burial at a private cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Obama has ordered flags at the White House and other federal buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of Byrd.

He issued the order Wednesday, two days after Byrd's death.

Byrd is to be interred next Tuesday next to his wife, Erma.

Obama ordered flags to remain at half-staff until sunset the day of Byrd's interment.

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