John Dingell laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
A military honor guard carries the casket of former Rep. John Dingell during a funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery Friday in Arlington, Va.

Arlington, Va. — Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr., a veteran of World War II, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday at a service with military funeral honors. 

Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in American history, died last week at age 92. The Dearborn Democrat served in the U.S. Army from 1944-46 as a 2nd lieutenant.

A procession of dozens of vehicles filled with family and friends wound their way from the cemetery gate on Memorial Drive to the burial site Friday morning, among Arlington’s sea of white-capped grave markers.

They stopped next to an empty field, where 10 chairs and white flowers waited next to the grave site in a newly expanded part of the cemetery. 

More than 100 family and friends gathered together shortly after 9 a.m. as the hearse carrying Dingell’s casket pulled in. 

Old Guard soldiers, part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, saluted as the pallbearers removed Dingell’s flag-draped casket from the hearse and carried it to the grave site.

Army Lt. Col. Allen Kehoe of the Old Guard presents the flag from the casket of former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in Arlington, Va. To Debbie Dingell's right are John Dingell's younger siblings, Jim Dingell and Jule Walowac, and his son Christopher Dingell.

U.S. House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy blessed the casket and led those assembled in the Lord's Prayer. 

"Grant that our brother, John, might sleep here in peace until you awake him," Conroy prayed. 

"We commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Lord bless him and keep him."

An Army chaplain, Maj. Matthew Whitehead, led a brief service. 

“Eternal rest grant unto him, oh Lord. May he rest in peace,” Whitehead prayed. 

He addressed the crowd, saying Dingell served the country honorably during World War II, but his greatest contributions to the nation were through his lifelong career in Congress. 

"In life, he honored our flag. Today, in death, the flag will honor him," Whitehead said.  

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., is hugged by Patrick Conroy, the chaplain of the House of Representatives, during the burial services of her husband, former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Friday.

Family members and friends stood, some with hands on hearts, for the military honors. A seven-member firing party fired three volleys in the air from their rifles.

From the silence that followed arose the forlorn notes of a bugler playing “Taps.”

Six honor guard soldiers methodically folded the U.S. flag over top Dingell’s casket, as Canada geese honked overhead.

Lt. Col. Allen Kehoe of the Old Guard knelt to present the flag to Rep. Debbie Dingell, the congressman's wife of 38 years who won his seat in 2014. Kehoe then saluted.

Debbie, tearful, hugged the flag to her chest.

Near her in the front row sat Jim Dingell and Jule Walowac, younger brother and sister to John Dingell, as well as his son, Christopher.

Anna Berger, one of the Arlington Ladies, a group of volunteers, stepped forward to present a condolence card to the family.

“Depart in peace,” Whitehead said in closing. 

Others in attendance included family members, former Dingell staffers and members of Congress, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey; Billy Long, R-Missouri, Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Paul Tonko, D-New York; Annie Kuster, D-New Hampshire; and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Debbie Dingell posted about the burial on Facebook: "He told me not to cry. I have been trying."

She shared a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye that she says "carries his spirit":

Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.

Twitter: @nannburke