My brushes with history

November 18th, 2015 by Ken

For 18 month – –  I brushed up against history.

In September 1962, I was with Charlie Company, 502nd battalion (the Five Oh Deuce) in the 101st Airborne division.   We had been called to Oxford, Mississippi to ensure than James Meredith would be admitted to the University of Mississippi as its first black student.   A full detail of my adventure is available at the National Civil Rights Museum and is probably available on-line.   That was adventure enough and my first brush up against history.

A month later,in October,  my unit was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We were being equipped and made ready to invade Cuba.  As a young 19-year old male I was anxious to jump onto the island and “do my duty.”   When President Kennedy called the invasion off – – I was disappointed.

A year later, I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington – not far from my home in Tumwater.  My birthday is on November 22, and in 1963 I would be turning 21 years of age.   I was taking annual leave over my birthday and you could leave at midnight.  So that evening I was spending time with the guys, waiting to leave and talking about various things – –  when the subject of President Kennedy came up.   In my young, unfettered way – I told them the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, how disappointed I had been that the president had called the invasion off and ended with “That son-of-a-bitch ought to be shot.”

At midnight I went on leave.  That morning  the president was shot.   A few hours later, two men – in black suits –  pulled up at the family home in Tumwater and asked for PFC Balsley.   I came to the door.   “We heard you made some threats against the president’s life and we just wanted to check where you were.”   I said I’d been here since midnight – – and they left.

That was the third and last time in my life that I brushed up against history.

(It’s possible in the telling that I may have pulled a Ben Carson – but hopefully my memory is correct after more than 50 years.)

Posted in The Real News

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