About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Monday, November 25, 2013

In Honor of November 22, 1963

In honor of the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, I'm sharing two segments which Massachusetts native and friend Tom Coughlin wrote, describing his hours as part of the honor guard in Washington, D.C., for JFK's farewell.

Part II

After the services in the Capitol building, Mrs. Kennedy exited with her children.  She stood at the top of "our" stairs with Caroline and young John-John, who held a flag in one hand.  Although we'd been ordered to keep our eyes straight ahead at all times, at that moment I swiveled my eyes up and to the left as far as possible, keeping my neck rigid.  Just then John-John gave his famous salute.  Our hearts were moved, even if our bodies couldn't.  After the guests had departed the Capitol, the public filed single-file up the steps to enter the rotunda for a final good-bye.

Our Chief Petty Officer led us Coast Guardsmen to a small room under the same steps we'd been patrolling.  "You all stay here," he said, leaving us.  As soon as he was out of sight, a group of us headed out for a tour of the Capitol.  Without a guide, we had no idea where the rotunda was, but we were determined to find it.  I took the lead.  We knew we were on borrowed time, since k.p. duty, maybe worse, would await us if our Chief Petty Officer beat us back.

A large group of maybe a hundred people turned left  into a corridor ahead of us.  We followed and walked past people lined up along the right wall.  They whispered, "Must be a changing of the guard," as we passed.

Suddenly we were in the rotunda.  Behind a velvet rope in the center was the flag-draped casket.  We kept moving toward it. A member of the color guard unhooked the rope, thus inviting us to join him behind.  Without a clue as to what to do, I led the group around the casket.  Passing the President's head, I looked up and saw T.V. cameras above the door leading to the corridor we'd come from.  I envisioned some admiral watching T.V. at that very moment and seeing us walking inside the rope and around the casket.  As anybody with military experience knows, when in doubt, there is one safe move: salute.  Alongside the casket, I smarty executed a "left face," held my spot while I saluted, and executed a "right face," marching away a few steps.  Each of our team members behind me did the same maneuver at the same spot. It became clear to the guard on duty that we were going to march off, so he removed the velvet rope for us and we headed back to our room under the stairs.  We made it back just before the Chief.  It was then that we learned Oswald had been shot several hours earlier.

The following day when JFK's casket left the Capitol on its way to Arlington National Cemetery, our little group was back in D.C.  Our stair duty had been given to others, so without specific duties, the Chief let us join the crowd.  Even in uniform, we weren't granted access anywhere!

Over the years the memories of that bright November 25, 1963, day led me to look for photos of myself on the steps.  I finally went to the JFK Library in Boston.  When I appeared with my long story at the front desk, I had to fill out a form for a researcher's card.  I took the card upstairs to the library and was greeted with the question, "Which day, Sunday or Monday?"  The librarian's second question was, "Which side of the stairs were you standing on?"

In a short while he brought out boxes of photos donated by some of the country's leading newspapers. I spent several hours going through them and culled my choice down to two that captured my memory of that day.  One shows me standing on the stairs to the left of Adlai Stevenson, Dean Rusk, and several others who were coming down.  The other is the shot taken from the top of the stairs over my head, the flag-draped casket on the carriage below receiving our salute.

Certainly all of us who were alive at the time remember where we were when we heard that JFK had been shot.  My most vivid memory is of that sad, historic November Sunday when I had a front row seat, as the nation said farewell to a fellow son of Massachusetts.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Honor of November 22, 1963

In honor of the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, I'm sharing two segments which Massachusetts native and friend Tom Coughlin wrote, describing his hours as part of the honor guard in Washington, D.C., for JFK's farewell.

Part I

...a reprieve from my Fall River (Massachusetts) draft board in 1963 allowed me enough time to find a slot in the highly coveted six-month Coast Guard Reserve program, nearly impossible to get into in New England.  Coast Guard basic training was in Cape May, N.J., and it was there in the last week of boot camp that we received word that our President had been shot and killed.  The tiny Coast Guard had no permanent marching or honor guard unit in Washington, D.C.  Boot camp was the logical place to find a large group of men who weren't yet assigned to critical functions.

Our two senior classes were driven by bus to Baltimore harbor Coast Guard Base.  We lined up according to height and at 6'3", I was among those chosen for Washington.  We received white gloves, white leggings (like spats from WW I), white belt, and a rifle with sparkling chrome bayonet.

We boarded buses to take us to the White House, where a small number got off for honor guard duty. Those classmates would march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol with JFK's casket.

The rest of us got off at the Capitol.  Other branches of the service joined us on the steps, where we positioned ourselves alternately by service branch.  I was about three-quarters of the way up the steps on the left side, so I had a good view of the streets and plaza below, which were empty at the early hour we'd arrived.

An Army captain was in charge, who had no clue which civilians needed a salute.  He relied on one of my Coast Guard classmates who'd worked his way through Georgetown Law School as a guide in the Capitol.  "That's the Secretary of the Army, salute," my classmate advised, or, "That's a senator, no salute."

Whenever a salute was required, we "presented arms" with our rifles-cum-blades.  As more and more limos pulled up dropping off government leaders from all parts of the world, we were doing the up-and-down routine pretty rapidly.  After a large group passed us up the stairs, I looked out over the crowd to see that it had grown from a few deep at the curb to a sea of humanity.  

A deafening boom came from nearby.  It was the beginning of the 21-gun salute from large field cannons in a park on the other side of the Capitol.  Soon afterward, horses' hooves rang across the open square.  The crowd was silent, as though a sea of cotton had stuffed every crevice and open space.  The procession came into view, first the flag bearers, then the horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket, then the riderless horse, prancing sideways.  They stopped at the bottom of the stairs where we stood at attention.  Members of our honor guard carried the President's body in precision cadence up the stairs, followed by Mrs. Kennedy, her children, President and Mrs. Johnson.

To be continued...