Representatives of the US Army’s 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), led by Maj Gen Francis Beaudette, 1st SFC (A) commanding general, held the commemorative President John F. Kennedy Wreath Laying Ceremony at the JFK grave site at Arlington National Cemetery on 25 October.
In doing so, they continued a Special Forces tradition of paying tribute to JFK’s vision of building a dedicated counter insurgency force, a vision that helped build the Green Berets into the elite force they have become over the last five decades.
According to records at the JFK Presidential Library, then-President Kennedy visited Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the US Army Special Warfare Center, home of Army Special Forces on 12 October 1961.
During the course of their meeting, the president asked Brig Gen William P. Yarborough, ‘Those are nice. How do you like the Green Beret?’ Yarborough replied, ‘They’re fine, Sir. We’ve wanted them a long time.’
Following a Special Forces capability demonstration, Kennedy sent a message to the general which read, in part, ‘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.’
Soon after, Kennedy authorised the Green Beret as the official headgear for all US Army Special Forces and further showed his support for Special Forces in publishing an official White House Memorandum to the US Army dated 11 April 1962.
This stated in part that ‘the Green Beret is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom’.
The wreath laying ceremony continues a Special Forces tradition that honours Kennedy’s prescient vision.
Written by Scott Gourley, North American Group Editor for Shephard Media.