WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 31, 2006) - With military members standing a solemn guard over the flag-draped casket in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday evening eulogized former President Gerald R. Ford.

By his pardon of Richard M. Nixon, Ford prevented Americans from experiencing more political turmoil from Watergate, Cheney said in his eulogy to the fallen former chief executive.

"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who'd led our republic safely through a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe," Cheney said. "We will never know what further unraveling, what greater malevolence, might have come in that time of furies turned loose and hearts turned cold."

America was spared further angst, Cheney said, through Ford's pardoning of Nixon, which occurred not long after Ford had become president in August 1974 after Nixon resigned. Ford was president from 1974 to 1977.

Cheney had served as Ford's chief of staff. Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld performed his first stint as the Defense Department's top civilian in the Ford administration.

Ford was an astute and honest man who likely sacrificed his chance for election as president in his own right in order to bind the nation's scars, Cheney said. Ford lost to Jimmy Carter during the 1976 presidential election.

"For all the grief that never came, for all the wounds that were never inflicted, the people of the United States will forever stand in debt to the good man and faithful servant we mourn tonight," Cheney said.

Senior military officers including Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Vice Chairman Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff listened to Cheney's eulogy and looked on as other servicemembers posted in and around the Rotunda stood guard around Ford's casket. Members of the Navy Band's Sea Chanters chorus sang hymns at the ceremony's opening.

Cheney also praised Betty Ford, the fallen president's widow and former first lady. It was obvious to friends, Cheney said, that Betty Ford was the source of her husband's happiness and sunny outlook.

"All the good that you shared, Betty, all the good that you did together has not gone away. All of that is forever," Cheney said.

Ford healed America during his time in the Oval Office, Cheney said, noting it was now the time to say goodbye to his former boss.

"And so, for now Mr. President, farewell. We will always be thankful for your good life," Cheney said.