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Delegate John Kelly, R-District 10

PARKERSBURG – “How did I get here? “

Delegate John Kelly, R-District 10, said he asked himself this question when he worked at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a member of the Air Force Honor Guard from December 1968 to February 1971 .

Last week, Veterans Day was also a day to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first burial at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia. Kelly attended a ceremony at Sunset Memory Gardens where he spoke about his experiences working as a member of the honor guard. .

The Guard of Honor, at the time, was a unit of 150 people in the Air Force.

“You had to be nominated. I was nominated at the end of February (or) the beginning of March 68. I did not receive my orders until November 1968, so they subjected you to such an investigation (and) you need a huge security clearance ”, he said. “We had to be able to carry a weapon and stand with the president. “

As a member of the Air Force Honor Guard, Kelly worked in the White House about once a week.

“In fact, I carried the Air Force flag in President (Richard) Nixon’s joint service color. If we had a dignitary coming to the White House from one of the foreign countries, I was there ”, Kelly said.

He served at the ceremony for the death of President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Washington National Cathedral, which Kelly said was the most memorable ceremony he has ever attended.

“I was actually inside the main cathedral while on duty. The leaders of all the friendly nations of the world were represented in this room. It was phenomenal “, he said.

Today Kelly considers his service and position an honor and wonders how he was among the 150 people selected.

“I was honored to be there, my wife was honored to be there”, he said.

Kelly attended a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where he was stationed on the marble steps just below the grave. The then Israeli prime minister was delayed and Kelly stood at attention on the steps for about two hours before learning the ceremony would be postponed until the next day.

“The step was not wide enough for us to move our feet, we had to keep them together. “ he said.

Some of the honor guard at the time were upset about it and Kelly said a few years later that the prime minister wrote a book and apologized to all of the honor guard that she had left to attention.

” Everything went well. It was just one of the most memorable services I have rendered ”, Kelly said.

While in the Guard of Honor, Kelly also attended a Vietnam-era military funeral that took place about four or five times a day.

“It was an experience that very few people had the opportunity to do. Today, I am still honored. I’m still a member of the Air Force Honor Guard Association and we meet every five years or so. We have a meeting in Washington and I’m attending it ”, Kelly said. “I have had two things in my life that have brought me considerable honor; one of them was selected as a member of the United States Air Force Honor Guard. The other is elected to serve the people of the West Virginia State Legislature. “

Kelly encourages people to come to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to witness the sacred places and the changing of the guards.

“If you’ve never been to the Tomb before, it’s worth a visit. It’s phenomenal, it’s sacred. It’s just a wonderful experience to watch. There is so much history about the tomb and it is sanctifying for someone who has been there to go back and look at it and know that I actually worked there. It’s just a great experience, Kelly said.

With her experience in the guard of honor and her time spent in the state legislature, Kelly is grateful for the opportunities.

“If I never do anything else, I have been blessed by some of the things that I have been invited to participate in and that I have been selected for. “ he said.

Candice Black can be contacted at [email protected]

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