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Kennedys visit was big for this area
President John F. Kennedy visits Fort Stewart on Nov. 26, 1962. - photo by Photo provided.

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of a visit many may not know about.

I wasn’t aware until my Nana, Carolyn Floyd, cleaned out a closet and turned up photos of former President John F. Kennedy when he visited Fort Stewart 50 years ago.

The early 1960s were a time of fear for many, as this was the time of the Cold War and particularly the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this time, she was a civilian working on Fort Stewart at the Public Information Office as a news writer.

Only 13 days long, from Oct. 16-28, the Cuban Missile Crisis is considered by many to be the closest the Cold War got to turning into a nuclear conflict. Tensions were already high when on, “Oct. 14, 1962, a U.S. spy plane took photographs of Soviet medium-range nuclear missile sites under construction in Cuba,” according to Fort Stewart’s Military Era website. At this point, the U.S. military was put on alert.

Most of the responding forces were Navy or Air Force; however, “the only divisional-sized Army ground combat unity actually deployed … was the First Armored Division, which was ordered from Fort Hood, Texas, to Fort Stewart for the invasion of Cuba,” according to the same website.

Fortunately, before an invasion or nuclear strike could occur, the U.S. and the Soviet Union reached an agreement. The missiles were dismantled and removed from Cuba.

Showing appreciation for their efforts, Kennedy inspected and thanked the responding units. A short speech was given at the Donovan Parade Field. The following is an excerpt from this:

“Many years ago, according to the story, there was found in a sentry box in Gibraltar, a poem which said: ‘God and the soldier, all men adore, in time of danger and not before. When the danger is past and all things righted, God is forgotten and the old soldier slighted.’ This country does not forget God or the soldier. Upon both we now depend.”

Although the times have changed, we should continue to be thankful for service members and their families who sacrifice for our freedom and the freedom of nations that are unable to win the fight for themselves.

I also am thankful for family members who keep mementos and are willing to share their stories. You never know what you’ll learn when you drop by to eat some leftovers on your lunch break.

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