In the shade of a broad elm tree, a few feet from where Joe Louis is buried, Maj. Gen. Charles C. Rogers was laid to rest yesterday.
Although he was not so famous as the former boxing champion and Army sergeant, some at the graveside at Arlington National Cemetery said the influence of Rogers -- the highest ranking black to receive the Medal of Honor -- was significant.
"He was a role model to the black officers' corps just when we needed that kind of leadership," said Garnet Vintes, a retired lieutenant colonel who works as an intelligence analyst for the Defense Department.
A two-star general, Rogers was one of only 77 blacks to receive the Medal of Honor. He died Sept. 21 of prostate cancer in Munich, his adopted home. He was 61.
Rogers was awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as a lieutenant colonel in Vietnam in November 1968. As commanding officer of an infantry battalion near the Cambodian border, he led a successful defense of his unit's position although outnumbered by enemy forces and heavily bombarded by rocket and grenade fire.
At yesterday's ceremonies, which were attended by about 100 people, seven white horses drew a caisson bearing the flag-draped coffin with Rogers's cremated remains. Among those attending the ceremonies was Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Eight white-gloved guards held rifles at attention for most of the ceremony, then fired three volleys as a salute.
After a brief graveside ceremony, a bugler played taps and the folded American flag was presented to Rogers's widow, Margarete.
Although there was much talk of Rogers's heroics during a military career that spanned three decades, he was most remembered yesterday for his personal qualities and achievements. Late in life, for example, he achieved a dream, being ordained as a Baptist minister in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1988.
"He said his calling to the ministry was even stronger than his calling to the military," said John Morrison, a lieutenant colonel and chaplain who led the memorial service.
A native of West Virginia who retired from the military in January 1984, Rogers is remembered by friends as a skillful athlete who possessed a sense of humor, but who also had a serious side.
"He was always very religious," said Harold Ritchie, 57, one of a contingent of Rogers's former classmates from West Virginia State College. Rogers later received a master's degree in science from Shippensburg (Pa.) State College.
"He was a very serious individual, but still down to earth," said Ritchie, who had known Rogers since childhood. "He was a wonderfully warm and loving person."
Another classmate said he served in the Army with Rogers. "We were in Vietnam together after he was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor," said Ronald M. McLeod, a retired lieutenant colonel who works as a consultant to a defense contractor. "He wanted to return to action even after he had been decorated. That's the kind of special person he was."