A lone bugler sounding the traditional military farewell "Last Post" marked the arrival Wednesday in the Netherlands of the first dead from the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
The grieving nation then held a moment of silence to honor those killed in the crash of the jetliner, downed last week by a suspected surface-to-air missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine.
In a ceremony rich with martial symbolism - from saluting soldiers to the haunting tune used to send war dead to their rest - 40 simple wooden caskets were solemnly unloaded from two military planes. Soldiers then walked them to waiting hearses and lowered them inside before rendering a final salute.
The only sounds were the hushed orders of soldiers and a whipping wind.
A long line of hearses, accompanied by police, carried the remains slowly toward a Dutch military base in Hilversum, where forensic investigators will begin the grim work of identifying them. Thousands of Dutch residents lined roads and overpasses along parts of the route to pay respects to the dead.
Some applauded as the hearses finally passed through the base gates, some tossed flowers on the vehicles. Others stood silently, red-eyed.
"The Netherlands are in shock, and Hilversum, as well," said the city's mayor, Pieter Broertjes.
Harun Calehr, whose two nephews were among the 298 people killed in the crash, called the ceremony "very moving and a beautiful tribute."
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