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Remembering Shriver’s role in JFK funeral

Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

The single soul-searing event of my generation had to be the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As a 20-something college student, I joined the rest of the nation to watch 3 days of incredible events on the family’s black-and-white TV. 

For the past several days, as the nation relived those events, I again watched, but this time with a deeper appreciation of the tremendous effort and sacrifice of one man.

In Mark Shriver’s book, “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver,” Mark devotes the first chapter to the events that followed Mrs. Kennedy’s request that his father lead the planning of the funeral.

Sargent Shriver had a myriad of challenges to resolve in only 3 days. He met with Cardinal Cushing of Boston and Archbishop Boyle of Washington, D.C., to plan the funeral. He made arrangements for heads of state and dignitaries from all over the world to attend the funeral.

A miscue was avoided when he realized that there were no military personnel at the White House to form an honor guard and act as pallbearers for the arrival of the president’s coffin early Saturday morning. A Marine Silent Drill Platoon was called, and with only 20 minutes’ notice, they appeared in full-dress uniform just a few minutes before the hearse arrived.

Here is Mark Shriver’s assessment of how his father understood his role: “I am certain that Dad’s central focus was not creating a majestic national funeral as much as it was instilling the faithfulness and the peacefulness of an eternal homecoming for the assassinated president. He was accompanying a president to be buried but, more important, he was hastening the soul of a loved one on the way to meet his maker and know everlasting life.”

To this I say “Amen” and “Thank you, Sargent Shriver.”

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