Former Sen. Ted Stevens, World War II veteran, laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Former Alaska senator buried at Arlington

ARLINGTON, Va. — Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who served in the Senate longer than any Republican in history, was buried with full military honors Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Dozens of his Senate colleagues were among the hundreds attending the burial rites on a hillside with a view of the State Department on the other side of the Potomac River.

A caisson led by six horses and followed by an eight-man honor guard escorted the body to the burial site, where a firing party fired three rifle volleys and four F-22 Raptors did a flyover as a bugler played “Taps.”

Stevens was one of five people killed in an Aug. 9 plane crash in southwest Alaska. He was 86.

Stevens was a World War II veteran and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He went into public service before Alaska became a state in 1959 and was appointed to the Senate in December 1968.

Stevens lost his seat in the election of 2008, when he was convicted on corruption charges shortly before Election Day. A federal judge later threw out the verdict because of misconduct by federal prosecutors.

The Democrat who defeated Stevens in that election, Mark Begich, was among the mourners. Receiving the flag from Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, chief of staff of the Air Force, was Stevens’ widow, Catherine Stevens.

During his four decades in the Senate Stevens headed the powerful Appropriations committee and attained the rank of president pro tempore, third in rank in succession to the president.

“Ted left exemplary footprints in the sands of time,” Senate Chaplain Barry Black told the gathering. “I have not met anyone who loved his country more than Ted Stevens and I know I’ve not met anyone who loved Alaska more.”

Late Monday the Senate approved legislation to name a mountain and part of an ice field after him.

What is now known as South Hunter Peak, a mountain located in Denali National Park and Preserve just south of Mount McKinley, will become Stevens Peak after the House passes the bill and the president signs it into law.

“The Senate will be thinking of Ted Stevens today,” Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a speech on the Senate floor. His colleagues admired and even feared Stevens, McConnell said. “Alaskans loved him without any qualifications. To them he was just ‘Uncle Ted.’”

Stevens was also honored at ceremonies in Alaska in August attended by Vice President Joe Biden, several dozen lawmakers and thousands of Alaskans.

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