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I Lost My Commander-in-Chief

Posted on 11/5/2013 by |AARP Blog Author | Comments

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by Dennis Stiffler, 69, Port Orchard, Wash.

I was 17 and a senior at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington when Senator Kennedy was inaugurated as President.  In our history class we held a mock election to see how many votes Kennedy would receive and he won 98 percent of the votes in our class.

dennis-stiffler-galleyWhen I was 18, I was on active duty on the world’s first Polaris submarine, the USS George Washington (SSBN598)(Blue) off the coast of Russia in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and we had 15 missiles aimed at Russian cities and the 16th missile was aimed at Nikita Khrushchev’s home address.

Needless to say, the missiles were removed from Cuba. (see photo at right)

>>Add your own thoughts and remembrances on our blog “JFK Memories.”

My Commander-in-Chief was a hero during WW II and was involved in:  The Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Berlin Wall, The Space Race, The Civil Rights Movement, and The Early Vietnam War.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a second class yeoman on the admiral’s staff at the submarine base in Groton (New London), Conn. when the word was passed throughout the building that the president had been shot.  We were all hovering around the one black and white TV listening to the news reports until the news was received that our Commander-in-Chief had passed away.

A few days later I watched the burial procession on TV.  To this day. John F. Kennedy continues to be one of my Super Heroes.

The attached picture is one taken of me in the Galley of the USS George Washington (SSBN598)(Blue) off the coast of Russia at Christmas time 1962.

Much more on JFK and the anniversary, including a remembrance by CBS journalist Bob Schieffer, and a slideshow of Kennedy family life starting in the late 1950s.

Here’s a preview of the American Experience documentary on JFK that airs November 11 and 12 on most PBS stations.


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