Legendary astronaut, U.S. senator and Marine Corps fighter pilot John Glenn was buried Thursday morning in Arlington National Cemetery in a drenching rain that beat on his coffin and soaked the green hillside where he was laid to rest.
The body of Glenn, who was 95 when he died Dec. 8 in Columbus, Ohio, was carried through the downpour on a black, horse-drawn caisson decorated with silver stars and golden wheel hubs.
It was followed by six Marine Corps pallbearers whose white gloves had been soaked to gray, and a black riderless horse with reversed boots in the stirrups.
There was little sound except for that of the rain, the clip-clop of the horses’ hoofs and the quiet beat of drums, as the cortege passed plots of drenched daffodils and the pink blossoms of cherry trees.
At 10:32 a.m., musicians from the Marine Band played the “Marines’ Hymn” at a slow tempo as the pallbearers carried the gray coffin, covered in a U.S. flag protected by an opaque plastic sheet, to the grave.
A minister recited the Bible’s 23rd Psalm, and a trumpeter sounded taps.
A baby fussed as the band played the solemn Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller stood at the head of the coffin, then knelt and formally presented the folded flag to Glenn’s widow, Annie, who sat in a wheelchair at the gravesite under a tent.
Annie Glenn, 97, put her hand on his shoulder and leaned forward to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Later, he took off his gloves and hat, returned to her, and the two embraced.
Neller later said in a statement that he was “completely humbled and honored to represent the Marine Corps as we laid to rest an American hero, a loving father and husband, a Marine.”
Thursday was the Glenns’ 74th wedding anniversary, a NASA spokeswoman said. Also in attendance were the Glenns’ two children, Carolyn Ann Glenn, and John David Glenn, according to the Marines.
Glenn was one of the seven original astronauts in NASA’s Mercury program, which was a conspicuous symbol of the country’s military and technological might at the height of the Cold War.
He was not the first American in space — two of his fellow astronauts preceded him — but his three-orbit circumnavigation of the Earth captured the nation’s imagination. He was the last survivor of the Mercury Seven.
He was elected to the Senate from Ohio in 1974 and served 24 years.
When he was 77 and completing his fourth term in 1998, he returned to space as a crew member aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
He had climbed the ranks of the Marine Corps by accepting the most dangerous assignments. He flew 149 combat missions in two wars and was a test pilot in the 1950s.