Friday, November 22, 2013

50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's Assassination

50 years ago today, the 22nd of November 1963, then President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. While volumes have been written about John F Kennedy, from his World War II service as a PT boat commander in the Pacific Theatre, through his meteoric rise as a politician, to the failed Bay of Pigs- Invasion of Cuba which almost collapsed his administration, to the Missile crisis in Cuba with the Soviets trying wanting to put nuclear capable missiles just off our coastline which rejuvinated the Kennedy Presidency as he made the Soviets blink. 

But what some of us also remember about John F. Kennedy is the importance he played in authorizing the Green Beret for Army Special Forces. 

President Kennedy visited Fort Bragg on October 12, 1961, and upon meeting Special Forces Commander Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, who wore his green beret to greet the President, the President asked General Yarborough commander-in-chief. The president remarked, "Those are nice. How do you like the green beret?" General Yarborough replied: "They're fine, sir. We've wanted them a long time."

Later, a message from President Kennedy to General Yarborough said, "My congratulations to you personally for your part in the presentation today ... The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the green beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead."

What is hardly remembered about Kennedy's visit to Fort Bragg is that he had asked General Yarborough to ensure he and the Special Forces soldiers to wear their green berets for his visit.

President Kennedy felt that since Special Forces had a special mission, we should have a distinctive headgear that set us apart from the rest of the Army. Later, in April 1962 President Kennedy penned his famous phrase, "The Green Beret, a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."

To honor his memory, Special Forces soldiers pay their respects to late President Kennedy by laying a wreath and green beret on his tomb every November twenty-second, the date of his assassination.

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