An outstanding guest piece from Pat Fenton. Pat’s one of the good guys who grew up in the neighborhood. And boy is he a fantastic writer!
I pushed up my draft in 1961, 20 years old, a high school drop out working a rivet machine in a factory in Brooklyn, and the Army seemed like a way out. I went in during the Berlin Crisis buildup, was sent thorough the military police academy in Fort Gordon, Georgia, and shipped out of the Brooklyn Army Base on the ship the U.S Rose to Mannheim Germany to the 537MP Company.
I got to stand a few feet from President John F Kennedy when he was on his way to Frankfurt to give that great Berlin speech. He was reviewing the troops at a first stop, and I was standing as part of the security on a black top when his open limo stopped, and I saluted him. Riding the back top, his Ray Bans on, he saluted me back. I still have the program from that day. It was the same limo he took everywhere, the one he would be assassinated on, I found out later.
I was 23 by then, and just a few feet from history; and the start-up of the Vietnam War. When I came home to Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn I spent my nights drinking in the Irish bars of 9th Avenue in places like Farrell’s on 16th Street, hearing the sad stories of all the young from our neighborhood who were being drafted and dying over there. And I think of them even more on this Memorial Day. God bless all of them, and to hell with the politicians who don’t fly an American flag on the front of their houses on this day.
A special mention goes out to Bobby Cain: “one of the people I served with in the 537th was Bobby Cain. And so typical of Brooklyn neighborhoods, I didn’t know him before I went in. We both went through the Military Police Academy in Fort Gordon, Georgia. When we both came home in 1963, we spent some time hanging out at the old McFadden Brothers American Legion Post when it was on 9th Ave off of 17th Street. ” Bobby Cain is all the way to the right crouched over. I heard that one of his sons goes into Farrell’s Bar.