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Remembering JFK: Man recalls taking part in Kennedy’s funeral

November 20, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Anyone who is more than 60 years of age very likely remembers where he or she was 50 years ago this week on Nov. 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Many will remember the televised coverage of the funeral procession and the lighting of the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery where Kennedy's body was buried.

One young man at the time now lives in Lehigh Acres and he was there.

For Edward M. Buff, it was an occasion he will always remember because he participated, along with other U.S. military service members, in ceremonies and other duties after the assassination.

Article Photos

Black and white photograph taken by a member of the National Park Service. It shows members of the honor guard preparing to place the American flag over Kennedy’s coffin.

Buff is known to his friends in Lehigh as "Mike."

In 1963 he was in the U.S. Army, a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry, The Old Guard, Echo Company "Honor Guard" at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va.

He was a specialist 4th class and his assignments and functions of the Honor Guard to which he belonged, included duties such as the wreath laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, being assigned when dignitary ceremonies were held at the White House and at Fort Myer, parade functions. He was a member of the U.S. Army Drill Team, participated in funerals at Arlington Cemetery and participated in the "Death Watch," when a dignitary was to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Buff served three years with the Army and participated in several events, one of which is being remembered this week, the time when John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

"I was assigned to the Death Watch at the White House and Capitol building, then as part of the funeral procession from the capitol to the church for Mass and then to Arlington Cemetery for burial of Kennedy.

"At that time the Eternal Flame was ignited. In the days following Kennedy's burial, I was assigned to Grave Site duties, where working in shifts we maintained a 24-hour guard," Buff said.

The state funeral of Kennedy occurred in Washington, D.C., during the three days that followed his assassination.

Kennedy's body was brought back to Washington and placed in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours with an honor guard near the casket.

On the Sunday following the assassination, Kennedy's flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state where throughout the day and night, hundreds of thousands lined up to view the guarded casket.

Leaders from more than 90 countries attended the state funeral on Monday, Nov. 25 and after the Requiem Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the late president was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Buff said during his tenure with the "Honor Guard," he participated in three state funerals, President Herbert Hoover, Gen. Douglas McArthur and President John F. Kennedy.

"For President Hoover and Gen. McArthur, I stood the 'death watch' also called the Guard of Honor at the Capital building in Washington, D.C.," Buff said.

Buff went on to say that for the honors paid to President Kennedy, he was with the Joint Military Services that were at Andrews Air Force Base when Air Force One returned Kennedy's body.

"It's all a memory that will remain with me for the rest of my life," Buff said.



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