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Pilot of plane that hit Pentagon buried at Arlington
Associated Press WriterARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- The pilot of the hijacked jet that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon was buried at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday.
Charles Frank Burlingame III, known as Chic, "was a gifted aviator. He could make the jets talk," said Navy Vice Adm. Timothy Keating, a Naval Academy classmate.
Burlingame, 51, a former Navy pilot and 17-year Naval reservist, was initially denied his own grave at Arlington because he died before age 60, the eligibility age for reservists. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., asked President Bush to grant an exemption.
Army officials said he was eligible to have his cremated remains placed in the cemetery's columbarium, or share his parents' plot. Burlingame's family protested, saying his long military history and the fact that he died in the Sept. 11 attacks should have been taken into account.
Army Secretary Thomas White reversed the decision and allowed Burlingame to have his own plot.
When the burial site was in doubt, veterans offered to give up their own plots, Allen said, describing Burlingame as "a true American patriot who paid the ultimate sacrifice as one of our nations first warriors to perish in the war on terrorism."
The several hundred people attending the funeral at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel stood to hear a rendition of "On Eagles' Wings."
"I'm sure it never occurred to him that the battlefields he spent his life learning about would extend to the cockpit of his commercial airliner," said Naval Reserve Capt. Barton Whitman, a close friend of the pilot. "We are a nation of Chic Burlingames," Whitman said, addressing the terrorists, "and you can never impose your will on us."
Burlingame received a funeral with full Navy honors. His body was taken from the chapel on a caisson pulled by six horses for burial near his parents grave.
Burial with his parents would have meant that Burlingame's widow, Sheri, could not be laid to rest beside him. Also, that would have denied Burlingame, of Herndon, Va., his own tombstone, with his name placed on the back of the family plot marker.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced legislation Thursday to eliminate the age requirement for in-ground burial at Arlington.
White said he granted a waiver for Burlingame "to honor the intent of proposed legislation, and to meet the wishes of his grieving family."
Burlingame grew up in Orange County, Calif., and he had planned to celebrate his birthday there by attending an Anaheim Angels baseball game on Sept. 12. When he learned he couldn't get a good seat to the game, his brother Brad said, he told his wife not to join him aboard the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 77 that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon.
------On the Net:
Arlington cemetery: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com