As a 23-year-old corporal stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, I was part of a Marine contingent serving honor-guard detail during the funeral procession for President Kennedy in November 1963. As the president was taken to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in the District, I was posted directly across from the Hotel Washington on 15th Street Northwest. We were then directed to the rear of the White House, where we were fed two cubes of sugar to give us energy.
We marched out the rear gate and were posted on Constitution Avenue Northwest while the procession marched to Arlington Cemetery.
We had left Quantico at 5 a.m. and returned to the base at 8 p.m. At first, the mess sergeant did not want to open the mess hall, but the commanding officer of our detachment made a call to headquarters, and we did eat that evening. When I watch TV reruns of that day in November and hear the sounds of the drumbeat, it brings back memories of that terrible day in the history of our country.
We were also at Anacostia Naval Station with two platoons of Marines and various military units during Martin Luther King’s “We shall overcome” speech on the Mall.
I was very proud to be of service to our country during these moments in history.
LEONARD B. BERKOSKI JR.