West Wing honors actor John Spencer

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Military news site Military.com reported this week that an elite Air Force unit took part in a scene being filmed for the NBC series The West Wing. The airmen will be part of the funeral procession for the character of Leo McGarry, the White House chief of staff who was played by recently deceased actor John Spencer.

The scene of McGarry's funeral was filmed at a church in Los Angeles using seven airmen from the elite Los Angeles Air Force Base Honor Guard. The soldiers acted as pallbearers and other members of McGarry's funeral procession. Show producers said they could have gotten extras, but "having the real thing is always best."

On the show, McGarry was a former US Air Force officer before becoming the chief of staff under President Jed Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen. In 2004, McGarry suffered a heart attack which caused him to leave his post, but earlier in the season he was being groomed as a possible vice presidential running mate for Democratic candidate Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits. Life bitterly imitated art when actor Spencer suffered a deadly heart attack on December 16, 2005. He was 58.

"John's character was previously established as an Air Force veteran, and after his unfortunate death, we asked ourselves how could we integrate this into the show," show producer Michael Hissrich told the news site. "We wanted to incorporate the Air Force into his [funeral] service. We were all very close friends of John's. It's going to be tough. The scene is full of strong imagery."

West Wing is scheduled to end at the conclusion of this season. The McGarry funeral episode is set to air April 16.

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