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Byrd burial service today at Arlington cemetery

Published: Tue, July 6, 2010 @ 11:12 a.m.

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Family, friends and employees went to the nation’s most hallowed burial grounds today to bid farewell to Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

His casket was carried into Memorial Baptist Church by a military honor guard, and a line formed for the late morning service in this Washington-area suburb. A single red rose, a spray of white ones and the twang of a bluegrass banjo were in the midst as mourners gathered inside a church.

The 92-year-old Byrd, who died last week, was to be buried later in the day at Arlington National Cemetery’s Columbia Gardens, next to his late wife Erma.

Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat who served half a century in the U.S. Senate, died at a hospital in Fairfax, Va. Today’s service and burial were the culmination of a week of memorials that included his time lying in repose in his beloved Senate and a memorial in West Virginia’s capital of Charleston.

Thousands in West Virginia paid their respects at a public viewing in the West Virginia statehouse, where President Barack Obama attended a memorial service.

Family and staff members said that Tuesday’s service, in contrast to the earlier tributes, was to focus on Robert C. Byrd away from the Senate — the husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather who played the fiddle and loved his dog.

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