I remember Kennedy’s inauguration day very well. I was in my first year as a cadet (fourth classman) at the Air Force Academy and the entire cadet wing was sent to Washington, D.C. for the event, as were West Point, Annapolis, and the Coast Guard Academy. We all marched very proudly in what was to be a mythical presidency that ended early in one of the true disasters of our time. But for me, the only thing that I can really remember is how bitter cold it was that day and it seems we waited for hours to begin our march. When I say we waited, I mean standing in formation with our rifles either at parade rest or at ease. My feet were freezing and we had these thin white cotton gloves that looked good on parade but were useless as far as keeping one’s hands warm. All in all it was not a pleasant memory.

As we marched we had our rifles (the heavy M-1, not the lighter M-16 that was used later) at either left shoulder or right shoulder arms for the entire march. My frozen hand holding the butt of the rifle was slow to thaw out when we changed shoulders and sort of stayed in a fist while I kept trying to move my fingers. We also started with overcoats but as I remember, we shed them before the pass in review because they didn’t look so good on parade. This lack of clothing, of course, added to my discomfort and overall pissed offedness. I really did not want to be there.

The march itself was better because we were moving and apart from the claw I was developing from holding the rifle, it was a damn sight better than waiting in formation. The only other thing I remember as we passed the reviewing stand was Jackie Kennedy in her pillbox hat. Even at that distance I was impressed and always carry that image in my mind.

Years later, after the assassination, and listening to the historic speech from that cold January day fifty years ago, I am glad that I was a part of it. I feel that I was a small witness to history.

When Jackie died in 1994. The memories of that day came flooding back into my thoughts and I wrote the following poem. Although it doesn’t deal directly with the assassination, I thought it appropriate to publish it on this momentous anniversary.

Categories: personal

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