ARLINGTON - Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, was buried Friday with military honors in a rain-drenched ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Lautenberg’s flag-draped casket arrived at the burial site at 8:30 a.m. A joint military casket team carried it to the grave site and, following Jewish tradition, lowered it part-way into the grave.
After a rabbi said a few words, three shots were fired from a firing party.
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"Frank had an aura about him. You knew around him that he was something special,” says Lautenberg's nephew, Marty Kaufman. "I think the country will miss him and the state of New Jersey will miss him."
The Democrat from New Jersey served in the Army Signal Corps during the war. He spent nearly three decades in the Senate and was its oldest member when he died Monday at 89, after suffering complications from viral pneumonia.
After serving in the Army, Lautenberg got help from the GI Bill and earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University. He ran for the Senate in 1982 after amassing a fortune as a founder of a payroll company, spending $3 million of his own money to beat Republican Rep. Millicent Fenwick in an upset.
Climbing the Senate seniority ladder, Lautenberg was a strong advocate on issues such as gun control, environmental protections and transportation. He wrote the laws banning smoking on domestic airline flights and setting the national minimum drinking age of 21.
Health problems had forced Lautenberg to miss many votes this year. In April, he returned to the chamber in a wheelchair for votes on gun legislation.
A series of events honored the late senator this week, including a memorial service in Manhattan on Wednesday and a color guard ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday.
Lautenberg is survived by his wife, four children, two stepchildren, and 13 grandchildren.
AP wire services contributed to this report.