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Congressman collapses at funeral

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Bernie Sanders
Vermont
Iraq
James Jeffords

(CNN) -- U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders was taken to a Vermont hospital Sunday after collapsing at a service for a soldier killed in Iraq, hospital officials said.

Sanders, the state's only congressman, was taken to Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans after falling ill Sunday afternoon at a memorial in the nearby town of Richford, said Valerie Martell, a nursing supervisor at the hospital.

Sanders' chief of staff, Jeff Weaver, said Sanders was being checked for flu symptoms and dehydration. Sanders' wife has been fighting the flu in recent days, Weaver told CNN.

The congressman was attending the funeral of Sgt. Joshua Johnson, a Vermont National Guard member killed in western Iraq in January.

Richard Mercy, the commander of the American Legion post in Richford, said the service was held in a crowded high school gymnasium, and witnesses reported that Sanders got up to leave the stage before falling ill, Mercy said.

"It was hot in there, and somebody sitting near him -- one of the other politicians -- said he was sweating," Mercy said.

Johnson, a 1999 graduate of the high school, was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), based in Jericho, Vermont. He was killed in a rocket attack near the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on January 25.

Mercy said the service continued after Sanders was taken to the hospital.

"A doctor came in and said something to the preacher, and he said, 'Give a little prayer for Bernie Sanders,' " Mercy said.

Sanders, a longtime socialist, has held Vermont's sole House seat as an independent since 1990.

Weaver said the congressman walked to an ambulance and was expected to resume his schedule this week -- including making campaign stops in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat now held by independent James Jeffords, who is retiring.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this report

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