News: Green Berets honor President Kennedy in ceremony
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy D. Crisp
ARLINGTON, Va. – Three days after the death of President John F. Kennedy, Sgt. Maj. Francis Ruddy, a Special Forces soldier, laid his “Green Beret” upon the grave of the fallen president.
That was Nov. 25, 1963, and the event occurred at Arlington National Cemetery as Kennedy was laid to rest – 43 Green Berets by his side.
Nearly 50 years later, soldiers of the Green Berets gathered at Kennedy’s grave site Nov. 17, 2011, to once again honor the man who lauded the Army’s Special Forces.
Soldiers from each of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups stood silent alongside Kennedy’s grave site as Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr., commander of U.S. Army Special Forces Command, and Army 2nd Lt. Christopher Kennedy McKelvy, great nephew of the fallen President, laid a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in a ceremony to honor the fallen president’s commitment to the Special Forces soldier.
Following the symbolic event by Sgt. Maj. Ruddy, the Green Berets would honor Kennedy by laying a wreath at his grave annually. That tradition continued until the late 1980s.
“Our purpose today was to re-establish the tradition that began when a very special contingent of Green Berets was requested from the Kennedy family to perform the honor guard for President Kennedy’s funeral,” said the Special Forces commander, Reeder, during a luncheon following the ceremony. “Our intent is to honor Kennedy’s unparalleled advocacy of the Green Berets.”
The newly commissioned McKelvy, 24, said the ceremony was “truly a special experience.”
“It was an honor to be invited by the Green Berets to be here. They are great Americans and great heroes,” he said.
During Kennedy’s tenure as president, the Special Forces regiment grew by seven Special Forces groups.
Not long after a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961 with then-Special Forces commander, Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough, Kennedy authorized the Green Beret as the official headgear of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Kennedy sent a message to Yarborough after the capabilities demonstration he received on the visit Fort Bragg. The message in part read: “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.”
Special Forces soldiers train at the school which bears Kennedy’s namesake, the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.