A Brooks Salute as San Antonio Marks JFK Anniversary

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The Brandeis High School Air Force Junior ROTC color guard marches to the JFK memorial ceremony at Brooks City-Base. Photo by Annette Crawford

The Brandeis High School Air Force Junior ROTC color guard marches to the JFK memorial ceremony at Brooks City-Base. Photo by Annette Crawford

(U.S. Air Force Photo/ Staff Sgt. John Bainter)On Nov. 21, 1963, a couple of hundred thousand San Antonians lined city streets as President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade made its way from the San Antonio International Airport to Brooks Air Force Base.

Many in the crowd were children, released early from school to celebrate and welcome the President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Thursday, some of those same San Antonians were at Brooks City-Base to commemorate that special day – the last full day of the Kennedy presidency.

Kennedy was in San Antonio to dedicate buildings within the Brooks Air Force Base School of Aerospace Medicine. He delivered his famous “Cap Over the Wall” speech before 10,000 people. It would be his last official act as president.

President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous “Cap Over the Wall” speech at Brooks Air Force Base on Nov. 21, 1963. Photo courtesy of Brooks City-Base.

President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous “Cap Over the Wall” speech at Brooks Air Force Base on Nov. 21, 1963. Photo courtesy of Brooks City-Base.

Thursday’s hour-long ceremony, “Remembering the Legacy of President John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963,” was filled with words of hope and promise, much like the president’s last speech.

About 300 people attended the event, representing a cross-section of cultures. They were young and old, sporting everything from flip-flops and shorts to business attire and military uniforms.

The Brandeis High School Air Force Junior ROTC color guard marches to the JFK memorial ceremony at Brooks City-Base. Photo by Annette Crawford

The Brandeis High School Air Force Junior ROTC color guard marches to the JFK memorial ceremony at Brooks City-Base. Photo by Annette Crawford

As the crowd began to gather under the tent, the Brass in Blue ensemble from the U.S. Air Force Band of the West played a selection of patriotic tunes. Leo Gomez, president and CEO of Brooks City-Base, noted that Brass in Blue also had started the program during the president’s visit, albeit with different members.

Approximately 300 people attended the ceremony at Brooks City-Base commemorating the 50th anniversary of JFK’s visit. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Approximately 300 people attended the ceremony at Brooks City-Base commemorating the 50th anniversary of JFK’s visit. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Gomez noted that while Nov. 22 was an anniversary of pain and suffering because of the loss of a president, Nov. 21 was the “50th anniversary of a glorious day. Today, we celebrate.”

After the posting of the colors by the Brandeis High School Air Force Junior ROTC, Frederike Davis, the John F. Kennedy High School junior valedictorian, led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pastor Bryan L. Thomas of the Community Bible Church at Brooks City-Base prefaced his invocation with a challenge: focus on the future rather than the past and the three shots that rang out in Dallas 50 years ago.

“Fifty years ago a visionary visited us,” said Mayor Julián Castro.

He quoted from the “Cap Over the Wall” speech, the words ringing true still today.

“It is an era which calls for action, and for the best efforts of all those who would test the unknown and the uncertain in every phase of human endeavor. It is a time for pathfinders and pioneers,” Castro said from Kennedy’s speech.

The mayor said those pioneers are present today in San Antonio, citing the research and development continuing at Brooks, and the discoveries being made at local medical and research laboratories.

Mayor Julián Castro delivers remarks at the JFK memorial ceremony at Brooks City-Base. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Mayor Julián Castro delivers remarks at the JFK memorial ceremony at Brooks City-Base. Photo by Annette Crawford.

“I’m confident President Kennedy would be very proud of us,” Castro said, adding the “President and Mrs. Kennedy reminded us of what could be.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who was a law student at St. Mary’s University in 1963, invoked the image of Camelot when he spoke of Kennedy, “(The president) set a whole new tone for our generation.”

Wolff was visibly moved as he said of the assassination, “It is still hard today to express the emotion of what that did.”

Manuel Peláez-Prada, chairman of Brooks City-Base, also spoke during the ceremony, praising the efforts and support City Manager Sheryl Sculley has directed toward Brooks so its mission in research and development can continue. He said that in the 50 years since Kennedy’s visit, San Antonio had become “a walking, talking celebration of diversity.”

This photo is an aerial image taken at Brooks Air Force on Nov. 21, 1963. The creators of the documentary, “JFK: The Final Hours,” created the overlay based on the timeline for the president’s visit. The number 1 is cut off at the bottom of the photo, where the JFK’s motorcade entered the base. The arrows at number 7 go in both directions because officials are unclear which direction the motorcade left the base. Image courtesy of Wyle Science, Technology & Engineering Group

This photo is an aerial image taken at Brooks Air Force on Nov. 21, 1963. The creators of the documentary, “JFK: The Final Hours,” created the overlay based on the timeline for the president’s visit. The number 1 is cut off at the bottom of the photo, where the JFK’s motorcade entered the base. The arrows at number 7 go in both directions because officials are unclear which direction the motorcade left the base. Image courtesy of Wyle Science, Technology & Engineering Group

District 8 City Councilman Ron Nirenberg was one of several city officials in attendance.

“It says something that a president most known for his ability to bring people together in times of crisis came to Brooks to make a significant speech,” Nirenberg said before the ceremony. “As a San Antonian, I’m proud to know that we’ve commemorated that occasion and that man, both here on the grounds and in our memory.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, all attendees were invited to tour the laboratories that Kennedy visited in 1963. Those facilities are still being used today, and are operated by Wyle Science, Technology & Engineering Group, San Antonio Operations.

JFK talks with Randolph AFB crewmembers during his visit to Brooks AFB. Photo courtesy of Brooks City-Base.

JFK talks with training crew members during his visit to Brooks AFB. Photo courtesy of Brooks City-Base.

Today’s guests also experienced a special treat.

A guest is reflected in the plaque displayed on the podium used by President John F. Kennedy at Brooks Air Force on Nov. 21, 1963. Photo by Annette Crawford.

A guest is reflected in the plaque displayed on the podium used by President John F. Kennedy at Brooks Air Force on Nov. 21, 1963. Photo by Annette Crawford.

The lectern that Kennedy used for his speech was on display in the Bedwell Building.

It was on loan from the Witte Museum, and is part of the “JFK in SA” exhibit, which also features original photos, copies of the “Cap Over the Wall” speech, and other material.

The Bedwell Building is named after Maj. Gen. T.C. Bedwell, commander of the Aerospace Medical Division who hosted the president during his visit.

 

Annette Crawford is a public affairs officer at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. She is also the house photographer for the Majestic Theatre and Sam’s Burger Joint & Music Hall. You can read her music and travel blog at www.thegroovygringa.com or follow her on Facebook at The Groovy Gringa.

 

Related Stories:

Where Were You On Nov. 22, 1963?

JFK Conspiracy Theories: “They” Didn’t Do It

Countdown to Eternity: JFK’s Last Good Day Spent in San Antonio

A JFK Remembrance: Air Force One and a Fort Sam Houston Flyover

Veteran Healing and Integration at Future Patriots’ Casa

From the Front Lines to the Classroom: What It Means to Serve

Brooks City-Base: Where History Greets the Future

 

One thought on “A Brooks Salute as San Antonio Marks JFK Anniversary

  1. I had assumed that the building belonged to COSA Metropolitan Health District. In any case, the building is a dream come true for a large corporation looking to expand in the San Antonio. Let’s say, a technology company focused on cloud computing or some kind of research and development that isn’t focused on military applications.

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