George HW Bush returns to Washington to lie in state

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George HW Bush has returned to Washington for a final time to lie in state as the US paid tribute to its 41st president.

Sent off from his beloved Texas with a 21-gun salute, Mr Bush’s casket was carried to Andrews Air Force Base outside the capital city aboard an aircraft that often serves as Air Force One.

Former US president George W Bush, the eldest of the four Bush sons, and his wife, Laura, along with brother Neil Bush and his family, boarded the plane for the cross-country trip to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.

Former President George W Bush and wife Laura Bush
Former President George W Bush and wife Laura Bush (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

George HW Bush
Guests write condolences to the Bush family at the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Mr Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, will lie in state in the US Capitol rotunda for a ceremony and public visitation from Monday to Wednesday.

An invitation-only funeral service is set for Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are to attend. Mr Bush’s family has not said who will speak at the service. Former president Jimmy Carter will also be there.

Afterwards, Mr Bush will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial on Thursday at his family plot on the library grounds.

His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukaemia in 1953 at the age of three.

Retired general Colin Powell, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was Mr Bush’s top military adviser, said he was the “perfect American” for serving his country in so many different capacities and should be remembered for “a life of quality, a life of honour, a life of honesty, a life of total concern for the American people”.

“He was a patriot. He demonstrated that in war, he demonstrated that in peace. He was able to demonstrate that in his four years of service,” Mr Powell said.

Mr Trump has ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days out of respect for Mr Bush.

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