Politicians from around Florida and around the country arrived in Largo on Thursday to honor the memory of Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who passed away last week.
Flanked by scores of local veterans, the Marine Corps honor gaurs led him into the First Baptist Church, to a song he chose for this very occasion - "God Bless America".
His passion and dedication for service resonated from the podium.
"The young marine had no real family or home and the Chairman and Beverly took him in. They treated him like a son," explained U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General James F. Amos.
That adopted son, Cpl. Josh Callihan, added, "They're my family. I my darkest hour, after I was wounded, there wasn't a lot of home for me, a lot of things that were going to help me carry on. I really didn't have much. Low and behold, these people came into my life and I think what they did more than anything is that they loved me."
"The meaning of respect is my father. Anyone who knew him respected him and anyone he met he respected," said his son, Billy Young.
At a time when party lines are as divisive as they've ever been, Congressman Young will also be remembered for his bipartisan ways.
"Bill Young wasn't just a leading man of the House, he was the House," said House Speaker John Boehner.
Young, the longest-serving Republican member of Congress, earned respect from both sides of the aisle during his four decades in Washington. That was evident at the funeral Thursday -- Republicans and Democrats alike packed the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks to remember their colleague.
Speaker of the House John Boehner praised Young for his leadership.
"No one man can fill his shoes. It will take all of us," Boehner offered.
"All of us owe the citizens of Pinellas County for sending Bill Young to serve with us and for us," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, the long-serving Maryland Democrat. "He will always be remembered as a good and decent man who loved his country and served it so well."
Many of those at the funeral remembered Young's dedication to the nation's troops. Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, announced at the service that he had made Young an honorary Marine.
"Congress has lost a leader…our armed forced have lost a valuable partner," eulogized Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. "And whether they know it or not, our troops and their families have lost one of the greatest friends they've ever had."
The funeral was followed by a private service at Bay Pines National Cemetery that included a 21-gun salute and military flyover.
Young died Friday at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He had recently announced plans to retire after being hospitalized with back problems that resulted from injuries he sustained in a small plane crash in 1970.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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