Honoring John McCain: Joe Biden, Arizona lawmakers speak at Phoenix memorial service

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"I'm a Democrat. And I loved John McCain", Biden started his eulogy as he wiped away tears.

"Many people might wonder what a young African-American kid from Minnesota and a highly decorated Vietnam hero turned United States senator might have in common", Fitzgerald said.

The public viewing of his casket, after a brief ceremony for family and dignitaries led by Gov. Doug Ducey, came on the first of five days of memorial tributes planned for McCain, who died on Saturday from brain cancer.

At the church, a choir from the Jesuit-run Brophy College Preparatory school that two of McCain's sons attended sang "Amazing Grace".

Among the speakers on Thursday was Grant Woods, McCain's former chief of staff, who retold one of the earliest anecdotes from the epic that was the senator's life. Taking aim at Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again", she said McCain's America was always great. "We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served".

The church's senior pastor, Noe Garcia, pronounced McCain "a true American hero".

He said his friend "could not stand the abuse of power wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country".

Halfway through his speech, Biden spoke forcefully as he said politics weren't the most important to McCain, it was the underlying values that mattered.

Dabbing his eyes at times, Biden also referred to his own son's death from cancer, saying of the disease, "It's brutal, it's relentless, it's unforgiving". (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) McCain's widow Cindy McCain pays her respects to her husband as he lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Friday. It was a line that made Cindy McCain smile just for a moment.

John McCain, R-Ariz., gets a hug from former Vice President Joe Biden, left, after a memorial service for McCain at North Phoenix Baptist Church Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Phoenix.

At the end of the almost 90-minute ceremony, McCain's casket was wheeled out of the church to "My Way", in tribute to a politician known for following his own path based on his personal principles.

McCain's family asked before his death that President Donald Trump, who the senator had long feuded with, not attend his funeral services.

People watch the motorcade carrying the casket of U.S. Sen.

As the 11-vehicle motorcade with a 17-motorcycle police escort made its way along the 8-mile (13-kilometer) route, people held signs that read simply "McCain, " and cars on the other side of the highway stopped or slowed to a crawl in apparent tribute.

Casey Deignan, a firefighter and paramedic from Glendale; Phillip Johnson, a fire captain and paramedic from Phoenix; Michael Norling, a fire captain and paramedic from north Phoenix; and Christine Roberts, a nurse from Peoria, were among the more than 6,000 team members who were present during McCain's ceremony.

John McCain began Thursday in Phoenix, Arizona, and will continue throughout the weekend in D.C. and Annapolis, Maryland. Meghan McCain, his daughter, leaned into the casket and wept.

As the room emptied, hundreds of people lined up outside the Arizona State Capitol, hours before the doors opened to the public, waiting to pay their respects to the man who represented them in Washington for over three decades.

Billy Endress, a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran from Clinton, N.J., was among those in line to say goodbye to McCain.

Twenty-four sitting US senators, four former senators and other leaders from Arizona were expected at the service for the maverick politician, former prisoner of war and two-time presidential candidate.