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Arlington burying its first casualties of war

©Associated Press

April 12, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va. -- In Arlington National Cemetery, where the nation buries many of its war dead, horse-drawn caissons bear flag-draped coffins across a sea of white, military-issue tombstones. Buried here are those who served in Vietnam, Korea, the two World Wars, the Civil War, the American Revolution.

And now, Iraq.

Capt. Russell B. Rippetoe, 27, an Army Ranger killed last week when a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi checkpoint, was the first U.S. military casualty buried here from the Iraq war.

On Thursday, the caisson carrying his casket was pulled by a team of six matched grays and escorted by a seventh ridden horse as a military band played Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful.

Seven soldiers fired rifle volleys -- the number of shots depends on the deceased's rank. Then came taps, as a lone bugler stepped apart from the band and blew his solitary notes.

Funerals are scheduled next week for more Iraq casualties, among them Marine 2nd Lt. Frederick E. Pokorney Jr., 31, who died March 30 in an ambush near Nasiriyah.

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