‘Real hero’: Crowds brave Arizona heat to honor John McCain

Members of the Arizona National Guard  carry the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Members of the Arizona National Guard carry the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) (AP/Matt York)
The Arizona National Guard carries the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)
The Arizona National Guard carries the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool) (AP/Rob Schumacher)
Cindy McCain, escorted by sons, Jack McCain, right, and Jimmy McCain, follow behind military personal carrying the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Cindy McCain, escorted by sons, Jack McCain, right, and Jimmy McCain, follow behind military personal carrying the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) (AP/Matt York)
Children of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., from back left, Sidney McCain, Meghan McCain and her husband Ben Domenech, Bridgett McCain, and daughter-in-laws Holly McCain and Renee Swift, follow behind the casket into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix.(AP Photo/Matt York)
Children of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., from back left, Sidney McCain, Meghan McCain and her husband Ben Domenech, Bridgett McCain, and daughter-in-laws Holly McCain and Renee Swift, follow behind the casket into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix.(AP Photo/Matt York) (AP/Matt York)
Military personal carry the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Military personal carry the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) (AP/Matt York)
Jack McCain, son of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Jack McCain, son of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool) (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
Father Edward A. Reese prays over the casket during a memorial service for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Father Edward A. Reese prays over the casket during a memorial service for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool) (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
Cindy McCain, wife of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. lays her head on the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)
Cindy McCain, wife of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. lays her head on the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool) (AP/Jae C. Hong)
Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wipes a tear away next to her son Jack during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wipes a tear away next to her son Jack during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool) (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
John McCain
FILE – In this Dec. 1, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., leaves a closed-door session on Capitol Hill in Washington. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Joe Biden, John McCain
FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, accompanied by Chair of the National Constitution Center’s Board of Trustees, former Vice President Joe Biden, waves as he takes the stage before receiving the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (AP/Matt Rourke)
John McCain
FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks after he received the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (AP/Matt Rourke)
John McCain, Cindy McCain
FILE – In this Jan. 19, 2008, file photo, Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., uses a cheetah hand puppet to make her husband laugh as they ride the “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus to a polling station in Charleston, S.C. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (AP/Charles Dharapak)
John McCain
FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives at the Capitol for a weekly Republican policy meeting, in Washington. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2018, file photo, flags fly at half-staff at the Arizona Capitol in memory of the late Sen. John McCain, in Phoenix. McCain's body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)
FILE – In this Aug. 26, 2018, file photo, flags fly at half-staff at the Arizona Capitol in memory of the late Sen. John McCain, in Phoenix. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file) (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
John McCain
FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks after he received the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. McCain’s body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (AP/Matt Rourke)
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Members of the Arizona National Guard  carry the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
The Arizona National Guard carries the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)
Cindy McCain, escorted by sons, Jack McCain, right, and Jimmy McCain, follow behind military personal carrying the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Children of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., from back left, Sidney McCain, Meghan McCain and her husband Ben Domenech, Bridgett McCain, and daughter-in-laws Holly McCain and Renee Swift, follow behind the casket into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix.(AP Photo/Matt York)
Military personal carry the casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., into the Capitol rotunda for a memorial service, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Jack McCain, son of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. touches the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Father Edward A. Reese prays over the casket during a memorial service for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
Cindy McCain, wife of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. lays her head on the casket during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)
Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wipes a tear away next to her son Jack during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
John McCain
Joe Biden, John McCain
John McCain
John McCain, Cindy McCain
John McCain
FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2018, file photo, flags fly at half-staff at the Arizona Capitol in memory of the late Sen. John McCain, in Phoenix. McCain's body lies in state Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Arizona, his home state. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)
John McCain

PHOENIX (AP) — Thousands of people paid their respects to U.S. Sen. John McCain on Wednesday, standing for hours in the broiling Arizona sun before filing past the flag-draped casket that his tearful wife, Cindy, lovingly pressed her face against after a ceremony for the former North Vietnam prisoner of war who represented Arizona for decades.

Former military members in shorts and T-shirts stopped and saluted the closed casket flanked by National Guard members at the Arizona Capitol. Families with small children came by, and several people placed their hand over their heart or bowed, including Vietnamese-born residents who traveled from Southern California.

The private service held earlier marked the first appearance of McCain’s family since the Republican senator died Saturday of brain cancer. It also began two days of official mourning in Arizona before his body is taken to Washington for a viewing at the U.S. Capitol, followed by burial at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

At the emotional private ceremony in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey remembered McCain as an internationally known figure and “Arizona’s favorite adopted son” on what would have been his 82nd birthday. He was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father, who went on to become an admiral, served in the military.

“Imagining an Arizona without John McCain is like picturing Arizona without the Grand Canyon,” Ducey said.

Former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said he had been with McCain across the world and he had better instincts on when to assert U.S. power than anyone else he knew.

“I will miss him as a friend, and a strong force for America and the world,” Kyl said.

Sen. Jeff Flake offered the benediction, expressing gratitude “for his life and for his sacrifice” and “that John made Arizona his home.”

By the time the ceremony ended, crowds gathered for the public viewing of McCain’s closed casket, seeking shelter from Phoenix’s summer heat under tents stocked with coolers filled with ice and water.

Several heat injuries occurred late in the afternoon as the temperature reached a high of 104 degrees, and two people were taken to the hospital, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

The line snaked down streets even as a continuous flow of people flowed past the casket. The visitation was to continue as long as people waited in line, said Rick Davis, McCain’s former presidential campaign manager.

By the time government offices closed for the day, more than 7,500 people filed by, and that number was expected to grow, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

Some people traveled for hours, including a group of Vietnamese-born residents of Orange County, California, who arrived on two buses and wore yellow T-shirts reading, “We salute our hero Senator John McCain.”

McCain was beloved among many Vietnamese-Americans for his history of fighting alongside the South Vietnamese and for supporting the families of political detainees, said Derrick Nguyen, who was with the group.

Nguyen said that in the 1990s, McCain pushed an amendment to a law that allowed for unmarried, adult children of political detainees to come to the U.S.

“Many, many of the families that wouldn’t have made it to America made it here,” he said. “And they have become U.S. citizens and good Americans.”

Ray Riordan, an 87-year-old Navy veteran who fought in the Korean War, came from Payson, Arizona.

“I grew up where a handshake was a contract and your word was your bond,” Riordan said. “He represented the last of that as far as I’m concerned.”

Kassandra Morales, 44, stood in line with her sons, 8 and 2. The Democrat brought a bouquet of flowers and said she had always looked up to McCain and voted for him.

“Yesterday I asked my son who his hero was. He gave me a rapper’s name,” Morales said. “I brought my children here to show them what a real hero was.”

For some Arizona residents, McCain has been a political fixture their entire lives. He took office in the state in the early 1980s, first as a congressman and then as a senator.

Phil Hubbard, a health care recruiter who lives in Scottsdale, held a cold water bottle in each hand as he waited for a chance to pay his respects.

“He believed in something,” Hubbard said. “That’s what he did, and that’s what a lot of people need to do in this country. If you believe in something, stand up for it, whether it’s popular or not.”

On Thursday morning, a procession through Phoenix will bring the casket to a memorial service at a Baptist church, with the public invited to line the route along a highway. Former Vice President Joe Biden will speak.

McCain will then depart Arizona for another viewing Friday at the U.S. Capitol, with a final memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, followed by burial at the academy.

___

Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi, Jacques Billeaud and Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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