& # 039; I am a democrat. And I loved John McCain & # 039;: Joe Biden delivers an emotional tribute to a deceased friend

Former vice president Joe Biden

An estimated 3,500 people gathered at an Arizona church to remember US Senator John McCain after a caravan carrying his body pushed through people waving flags and campaign signs.

Family members watched in silence as uniformed soldiers pulled out the coffin dredged by the Republican senator's flag from a hearse and took it to the Baptist Church north of Phoenix for Thursday's commemoration.

Twenty-four senators from the United States, four former senators and other Arizona leaders were expected in the church for the nonconformist politician, former prisoner of war and presidential candidate on two occasions.

Former vice president Joe Biden told the service he thought of John McCain as a brother, with "many family fights."

Biden said the two men met on trips abroad and talked about family, politics and international relations.

Biden said they were both "bull-headed optimists," and that he would trust McCain with his life.

When the caravan of 11 vehicles with a police escort of 17 motorcycles broke through along the 13-km route, people had signs that said simply "McCain."

The cars on the other side of the road stopped or were reduced to a turtle's pace in apparent tribute.

McCain died last Saturday of brain cancer at age 81.

About 1,000 seats for Thursday church service were made available to members of the public.

Michael Fellars was among those waiting for the motorcade outside the church.

"He was the only politician I've met who cared about the people of his country, and he did everything possible to make it a better place to live," Fellars said.

After Thursday's church service, a military plane was scheduled to take McCain's body eastward for a lie in the state at the US Capitol on Friday.