A daughter's last goodbye: Meghan breaks down as thousands gather to pay tribute to war hero John McCain

McCain will be buried Sunday at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in a private funeral service


                            A daughter's last goodbye: Meghan breaks down as thousands gather to pay tribute to war hero John McCain

Meghan McCain broke down in tears as the body of her father John McCain arrived at the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix on Wednesday. The late senator's body was escorted by his family to lie in state and will be displayed for the public until Thursday.

McCain's remains were driven to the state capitol in a black hearse escorted by four policemen on motorcycles. An honor guard made up of veterans, servicemen, and members of law enforcement and firefighters greeted the casket.

McCain's wife Cindy, in her first public appearance since her husband's death, accompanied his body as did the couple's sons Jack, who is home from Afghanistan for the funeral, and Jimmy. Jack and Jimmy saluted their father's coffin as it was taken from the hearse.

Meghan sobbed openly as her father's flag-draped casket was brought in and she was seen holding on to her brother Jimmy during the morning service.

Cindy McCain made her first public appearance since her husband's death (Getty Images)
Cindy McCain made her first public appearance since her husband's death (Getty Images)

McCain, who endured five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and went on to become a lion of the US Senate and a two-time Republican candidate for president, died on Saturday at his ranch in Cornville, Arizona, from brain cancer. He was 81.

Wednesday's observance opened with a private ceremony inside the Rotunda of the Arizona statehouse, after which members of the public were invited to pay their respects from 2 pm until 8 pm.

The organizers said that McCain is only the third individual honored in Arizona's state capitol over the past 40 years. The two others were state Senator Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, a Tucson resident, in 1980.

Cindy McCain was escorted to the Arizona State Capitol Rotunda by her sons Jack (L) and Jimmy (R) where her husbands' body will lie in state on August 29, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Cindy McCain was escorted to the Arizona State Capitol Rotunda by her sons Jack (L) and Jimmy (R) where her husbands' body will lie in state on August 29, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

A memorial service, to be attended by family, friends, political leaders and other dignitaries, is scheduled for Thursday at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. McCain's body will then be flown to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

His body will then lie in state on Friday at the US Capitol for another memorial ceremony and public viewing. This will be followed by a funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday.

McCain parlayed into a decades-long political career, served two terms in the US House of Representatives before he was elected to the Senate in 1986. 

John McCain's son Jack touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on August 29, 2018 in Phoenix (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool via Getty Images)
John McCain's son Jack touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on August 29, 2018 in Phoenix (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool via Getty Images)

McCain will be buried on Sunday in a private ceremony at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated as a Navy officer in 1958 before going on to become a fighter pilot. As the son and grandson of Navy admirals, he will be laid to rest beside his Naval Academy classmate and lifelong friend, the late Admiral Chuck Larson.

The two men who defeated McCain in his White House campaigns, Republican George W Bush in 2000 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, are to deliver eulogies at a Saturday service at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Among the pallbearers will be Democratic former vice president Joe Biden, ex-senator Russ Feingold, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Warren Beatty.

Cindy McCain touches the casket during his memorial service at the Capitol on August 29, 2018 in Phoenix (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool via Getty Images)
Cindy McCain touches the casket during his memorial service at the Capitol on August 29, 2018 in Phoenix (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool via Getty Images)

The White House initially lowered the US flag to half-staff on Saturday but President Donald Trump ordered it to be raised back up after coming under pressure from military veterans and members of Congress. Trump also issued a statement on Monday saying he respected McCain's service to the country.

Trump, who had an antagonistic relationship with McCain, also ordered the flags to remain at half-staff until McCain's burial.

Trump is not expected to attend any of the services but Vice President Mike Pence is to speak at a ceremony at the US Capitol on Friday.