December 29th, 2006 03:50 EST
Ford Funeral Ceremonies Planned in Three Locations
Washington -- The official schedule for the state funeral of Gerald R. Ford, 38th president of the United States, was announced by the Ford family December 28. Ceremonies will occur in three stages – in California, the District of Columbia and Michigan – from December 29, 2006, through January 3, 2007.
In Palm Desert, California, Ford’s remains will be received with military ceremony at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church at 4:00 p.m. PST (2400 GMT) on December 29, where, after an arrival ceremony and private family prayer service, they will lie in repose until approximately 8:00 a.m. PST (1600 GMT), December 30.
On the morning of December 30, the remains of President Ford will be transported via motorcade to Palm Springs Regional Airport and then flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, arriving in late afternoon. From there, a motorcade bearing the remains will travel through Alexandria, Virginia – Ford’s home when he served as congressman and vice president – and pause at the World War II Memorial on Washington’s National Mall at 17th Street. Ford served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
The motorcade then will proceed to the U.S. Capitol and be received at approximately 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT) on the east steps to the U.S. House of Representatives, in honor of Ford’s 24 years as a U.S. congressman. Ford’s remains then will be moved to the Capitol Rotunda to lie in state until the morning of January 2, 2007.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT) on January 2, 2007, the remains will be moved from the Rotunda and will rest at the closed Senate doors in honor of Ford’s service as the vice president of the United States and president of the Senate. A motorcade then will carry the remains to the Washington National Cathedral, passing the White House en route.
After a national funeral service, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT), the casket bearing the body of President Ford will be taken by motorcade to Andrews Air Force Base for transport to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
His casket then will be taken by motorcade to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, where the president’s remains will lie in repose until they are taken in the early afternoon of January 3 to Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids for a private funeral service followed by a private interment service at the presidential museum.
As a further mark of respect to the memory of Gerald Ford, President Bush on December 28 proclaimed January 2, 2007, a national day of mourning. In a related action, the president issued an executive order closing government offices on that day. (Full texts of the proclamation and executive order are available on the White House Web site.)
U.S. TRADITIONS FOR MOURNING FALLEN LEADERS
Many of the ceremonies that will accompany Ford’s funeral are deeply rooted in American tradition.
In 1791, Benjamin Franklin’s death resulted in the first national mourning for a prominent American statesman. The second instance of national mourning occurred eight years later in 1799 when the first U.S. president, George Washington, died. After a funeral with full military honors, Washington’s remains were deposited in the family vault at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
The first state presidential funeral was for William Henry Harrison, who died in 1841 shortly after taking office, but it was not until the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 that the United States experienced a nationwide period of mourning, made possible by advances in communication technology such as train and telegraph. Lincoln was the first U.S. president to lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. To date, 11 presidents have been honored by having their remains lie in state in the Capitol with a ceremonial honor guard to attend them, the latest being Gerald Ford.
A ceremonial funeral procession, comprising National Guard, active-duty, academy and reserve personnel who represent the five branches of the armed forces, is a traditional component of a state funeral observance. Funeral processions in the nation’s capital along Pennsylvania Avenue have honored eight presidents, including the four killed by assassins: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.
The Military District of Washington commander arranges the ceremonial preparations and supervises the funeral procession to the National Cathedral in Washington. The U.S. secretary of defense is charged with conducting the funeral proceedings.
A special ceremonial unit, known as the Armed Forces Honor Guard, has participated in past state funerals for former Presidents Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman (in Missouri), Lyndon Johnson, Nixon (in California), and Reagan. The Vietnam Unknown (the remains of an unidentified U.S. service member killed in Vietnam) received a state funeral in 1984.
ROLE OF THE MILITARY
As a past commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, a former president receives numerous military honors such as a military escort for the former president’s family during all funeral ceremonies.
An armed forces team to provide security for the presidential remains at any location in which they lie in state. Many state funerals include pallbearers drawn from armed forces, a 21-gun salute, a military chaplain for the immediate family, and a flag draped on the casket as a veteran’s honor.
In addition, the Old Guard Caisson Platoon of the Military District of Washington’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment will carry the remains in a converted transport wagon for a 75-millimeter cannon, drawn by six horses of the same color, three riders and a section chief mounted on a separate horse. Following the caisson, a caparisoned (riderless) horse carries a pair of reversed boots in the stirrups of the empty saddle to “symbolize that the warrior will never ride again.”
A military band provides traditional music during each phase of the state funeral. Firing three volleys over the grave by seven service members originates in the military custom of suspending the fighting to remove the dead from the battlefield. Three rifle volleys signaled that the fighting could resume. Another military tradition dictates that the national flag will be flown at half-staff for 30 days from the date of death.
Two former U.S. presidents, John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, sited across the Potomac River from Washington.
For additional information, see Gerald R. Ford: A Tribute.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)