Hard To See Grown Men Cry
Between holiday parties, diinners with friends, and a trip to Lambeau Sunday, I was able to squeeze out two hours to watch Discovery Channel's "The Kennedy Detail" over the weekend. I knew that the Secret Service agents who guarded President Kennedy and watched him die that day in Dallas were weighing in for the first time on what it was like to serve in the White House, share time with the First Family and, see their boss get murdered on their watch. I knew they'd say that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I'd already read about the agent who almost took out Lyndon Johnson some 13 hours later while the newly sworn-in President was taking an early morning stroll around his DC area home.
What I didn't expect, though, was to see these guys in such obvious pain, tears still coming to their eyes not just when they talked about the assassination but also about other painful moments including the death of the Kennedy's newborn son, Patrick, just months before the President's murder.
Even if you're not an assassination freak, "The Kennedy Detail" is a fascinating look back at what it was like being near the center of power during the Cold War and tje Cuban Missile Crisis. Agent Clint Hill's exchanges with Jacqueline Kennedy are incredible and to my knowledge had never been revealed anywhere.
It was Hill that would climb onto the back of the President's car as the final shot rang out, a bullet that killed Kennedy and changed history. Hill's description of the futile ride to the hospital is riviting, graphic and incredibly sad. So is his tale about his life after the assassination, one that saw him almost drink himself to death as he wrapped himself in guilt and self-indugence.
It's also sad to hear these men--witnesses to history--talk about their annual reunions and the realization that each one could be their last together as age and illness take their inevtiable toll. Kennedy's death was a subject they didn't bring up in previous meetings, and it was only recently that some of them returned to the scene of the crime to make peace with what happened.
They say they wrote their book and did the documentary in part to set the record straight, to put an end to what they call the conspiracy industry--those who take issue with the Warren Commission's finding that Oswald acted alone. Each agent says the shots came from one spot--Oswald's perch--and that he acted alone. They also dismiss as ridiculous some of the more outlandish theories that incriminate some of the agents themselves. Such claims are, indeed, outlandish. Not only do they give the real killer a pass, they blame innocent men who still feel the obvious pain and hurt that comes with reaizing that, for six terrible seconds, they weren't able to do their job.
It's not great holilday viewing, and it won't lift your mood, but "The Kennedy Detail" is something all should see, if nothing else to find out more about a fascinating job done by otherwise silent men at one of the more dramatic times in our country's history.