Richardson: Going presidential with Eisenhower, JFK

By Howard Richardson My Life Retold

By Howard Richardson
My Life Retold

In 1960, I was in the U.S. Army and stationed in South Korea. We received news that President Eisenhower was coming to visit. If I remember right, he was to arrive on a Sunday afternoon at the South Korean airport.

Anyway, myself and some of my buddies made plans to go to the airport to see Air Force One airplane, and maybe just see the president from afar. We had no idea we would get to meet him in person.

When Air Force One landed and came to a stop, the door opened and 10 to 12 people got off. About five minutes later, we saw the door open again. About this time we heard a band we had not seen begin playing Hail to the Chief. That is when we saw President Eisenhower appear in the door.

When he came down the steps and met all the people there to greet him. He looked over and saw this group of about 75 to 100 servicemen standing behind a roped-off area. He started walking over to where we were and when he got to us just reached out and started shaking hands with us and telling each one how proud he was to have us serving our country and that he wanted to say “thank you for your service in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

This is how I met President Eisenhower.

Also it reminds me when I see a man or woman that is serving in any of the Armed Forces to stop and say “thank you for serving” to them.

* * * 

 Go back to January 19, 1961. Place: Washington D.C., the day before the presidential inauguration.

I was in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., outside of D.C. On this day, it started snowing early in the morning. By mid-afternoon, we had between 8 and 10 inches of snow on the ground. John F. Kennedy was to be inaugurated the next day as president.

The afternoon of January 19, our unit was called out to remove the snow from the parade route, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. This is a 2-mile route, a four-lane road, and then the sidewalk around the Capitol. We worked through the night and on to 5 a.m.

Then we were taking back to Fort Belvoir to eat breakfast, shower and put on our dress uniform in order to return to D.C. for guard duty along the parade route and around the Capitol. The temperature was about 22 degrees. The wind made it feel like it was 7 degrees. I know it was cold.

We were on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue and around the Capitol, just an arms-length apart. I remember my guard spot was on the east side of the capitol where the presidential inauguration took place, and this was a great experience for me.

You see, while I was in the Army I got to see and meet two of our great presidents, President Eisenhower and President Kennedy.

Richmond County native Howard Richardson is author of “My Life Retold,” available on Amazon.com.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Opinion

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