ARLINGTON, Va. — The 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) held a commemorative President John F. Kennedy Wreath Laying Ceremony Oct. 20, at the JFK gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
The event paid tribute to JFK’s vision of building a dedicated counterinsurgency force, a vision that helped build the Green Berets into an elite force recognized around the world.
Maj. Gen. James E. Kraft, Jr., the commanding general of 1st SFC (A), was joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Brian C. Rarey, 1st SFC (A) command sergeant major and Dr. William Kennedy Smith in presenting the wreath that held a green beret at the cusp of Eternal Flash that rests on JFK’s resting place.
Smith, the nephew of JFK, founded Physicians Against Land Mines. The goal of PALM was to permanently ban the sale and use of antipersonnel and land mines.
PALM served as an active partner alongside the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and in 1997, the ICBL and its partners were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In October 1961, JFK commended the men of the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, for their efforts to prepare a force of unconventional warriors to combat growing threats to our nation.
Among those 46 Green Berets, who were designated to guard the president’s gravesite in 1963, Command Sgt. Maj. Francis J. Ruddy, a Special Forces noncommissioned officer, laid his own green beret on the grave of his commander-in-chief. In the previous two years JFK had ensured that Special Forces would be authorized to wear that same distinctive headgear.
“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,” Kennedy wrote. “I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”