Could it really be possible there are only three days left in the month of July? I suppose it’s true what they say, “time flies”… well, you know the rest.
That being said, July 2019 clearly has been a memorable month indeed! It began with America celebrating her 243rd birthday. And while our republic is not without its conflicts and controversies, it is still in tact and for the most part the envy of the world.
Then just one week ago last Saturday, we all proudly reminisced about that “one giant leap for mankind” 50 years ago when American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon just as if it had been there waiting for him for ages. I’ve often wondered what the Russians were thinking at the time as they watched the “Stars and Stripes” being planted on the moon’s face and not the Hammer and Sickle.
Still not all remembrances have been as adventurous or as joyous. It was just 20 short years ago this past July 16 that America’s prince — John F. Kennedy Jr. — his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and her sister Lauren Bessette crashed in the plane John was piloting over the rocky coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
JFK, Jr. was just 38 years old and the same person most of us watched give that unforgettable and heartbreaking salute on his third birthday as the flag-draped coffin of his father passed slowly in a horse-drawn caisson. The sight of the handsome son of a president gesturing to his father gave cause to even the most battle-tested generals to shed tears of compassion.
Once while on vacation in Massachusetts, I met John’s sister Caroline and although I never met the famous son, I still felt somewhat of a connection with him because of my friendship with Bob Foster. Foster was part of the Secret Service “kiddie detail” charged with protecting the president’s children from the time Kennedy was elected.
After the agent retired in the mid-1970s, he returned to Worthington, Ohio, where I was dean of students at the high school his daughter, Kathy, attended.
I loved hearing stories about the Kennedy years from Foster, who once told me at the time he felt as close to the two Kennedy children as he did to his own.
It was Bob Foster who was holding young John Jr. as the president was boarding Air Force One to embark on that ill-fated trip to Dallas in November of 1963.
The youngster was visibly upset that his parents were leaving as President Kennedy told him “You can’t come.” Then JFK looked at Agent Foster who was trying to calm the distraught little boy and said, “You take care of John, Mr. Foster.”
Bob told me he simply nodded to the president thinking it was unusual for him to make such a remark at all.
It was also Bob Foster and another agent who taught the young Kennedy, who really didn’t understand where his daddy had gone, that famous salute.
At first, Foster said, it was awkward for the 3-year-old who couldn’t make up his mind which hand he wanted to use. He also told me that Mrs. Kennedy wanted her young son to wear white gloves but the fidgety youngster was hot and uncomfortable, so Agent Foster took them off and put them in his overcoat pocket.
Unfortunately, I lost contact with my friend Bob Foster after moving to Texas, but I learned he passed away in 2008. I’ve often wondered how he felt on that fateful July day in 1999 when the youngster he had sworn to serve and protect died in that tragic plane crash.
Yes, there’s a lot to remember this July and like most months, they are memories filled with both triumph and tragedy.