Outside Fort Myer chapel on Wednesday, March 12, a team of six black horses hitched to a black caisson waited for David Brown. The Arlington-born astronaut was coming back to his hometown, to be carried by those horses to his final resting place in Arlington Cemetery.
That somber procession was draped in the color of mourning. Inside the chapel, however, friends of the late astronaut remembered laughing with a man they said always put others first. ?It was never about Dave,? said Jeff Goldfinger, ?It was always about what he could do for someone else. That was the measure of his character.?
Brown, a Yorktown graduate, grew up in Arlington. Last week, he received a full military funeral last week, laid to rest next two of the seven other astronauts who died with him on the Space Shuttle Columbia Saturday, Feb. 1.
Images of the stars came into the chapel, with the singing of the hymn?God of the Ages, Whose Mighty Hand.? As the Arlington astronaut?s funeral began, Brown?s friends and family sang the hymn?s first verse.
?God of the ages, whose mighty hand, Leads forth in beauty all the starry band, Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies, Our grateful songs before your throne arise.?
The Rev. Jennings Hobson III presided over the ceremony, reading the story of Christ?s resurrection from the Gospel John. Later, Hobson provided his personal thoughts on life after death.
A man such as Brown proves that death cannot be the end, Hobson said. ?Such awesome wonder and vibrancy cannot stop,? he said. ?His presence continues.?
GOLDFINGER AND GORDON Iiams, both friends of Brown, also spoke at the funeral, remembering funny and poignant moments with their friend.
Iiams was Brown?s roommate in their first year at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Iiams said that while he and others spent hours studying, Brown could learn the same material in 10 minutes.
?He must have gotten bored,? said Iiams. To fill the extra time, Brown decided to disassemble his car?s engine, just to see how it worked. In a single semester, he completely took apart and rebuilt the car, just to satisfy his curiosity.
Goldfinger also remembered the ability and motivation that set Brown apart. But all of those skills never went to Brown?s head. ?He was the most humble overachiever we?ve ever known,? said Goldfinger. That?s what made Brown a hero to millions, he said, referring to the astronaut as ?our Renaissance Man.?
As he finished his remarks, Goldfinger concluded with a cheer of ?Go Navy!,? a sentiment he knew Brown would appreciate. Then he spoke to his dead friend. ?May your God bless and keep you,? Goldfinger said.
Iiams said he knew what Brown would want to say to those in attendance: ?Fight the fight, do the science ? it makes NASA work ? and I love you all.?
AT THE GRAVESIDE ceremony, family and friends sat while hundreds of local residents lined a nearby walkway to honor Brown.
After the procession to Brown?s gravesite, F/A-18 Hornets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 321, based at Andrews Air Force Base, flew overhead in a ?missing man formation? in honor of Brown, a Navy pilot.
Hobson again read from scripture to complete the religious aspect of the services. A Navy honor guard folded the American flag draped over Brown?s coffin, handing it to his parents, Paul and Dorothy Brown.
As family and friends place red roses on David Brown?s casket, Paul Brown wept, and a Navy band struck up ?America the Beautiful.?