Baden Recalls the Days After Kennedy Assassination

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

“I remember a cold, dark day, and there was an eerie silence on the sidelines.  When we stopped playing the funeral march and started playing the drum cadence, I just remember how quiet it was.  It was a pretty somber affair.”

If you were to ask anyone who lived through the assassination of John F. Kennedy what they remember about the event, the words “sadness” and “shock” probably come to mind.  However, West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Lecturer of Music and Director of Percussion Robert Baden recalls the event in a different light above.  Baden had a different experience than many others in the country because he was a member of the United States Air Force Band and was asked to play during Kennedy’s presidential inauguration and, ultimately, funeral.

Baden, along with other members of the four Military Bands that were stationed in Washington, D.C., escorted the horse-drawn caisson carrying President Kennedy’s body from the White House to the Capitol Rotunda where Kennedy stayed for three days of public viewing.  The members then marched the President from Washington, D.C. to Arlington National Cemetery where the President was laid to rest.

With the 50-year anniversary of the tragic event this year, Baden always seems to flash back to that cold day in Washington, D.C.  “Every year at this time I find myself remembering that our president was assassinated in Dallas, Texas,” remembers Baden.  “On November 25, I was a member of the funeral procession from the United States Capital to Arlington National Cemetery marching at the slow funeral cadence the entire way.  As we were marching between selections we performed, I still remember the sound of silence except for cameras clicking and people crying.”

Baden remembers that the event hit his unit, stationed in Washington, D.C., pretty hard because his unit saw President Kennedy frequently.  As one of the youngest Air Force Band members during his 1960-1964 stint, Baden now realizes the importance of what he took part in.

“Odd as it is, I did not realize the significance of all this until years later,” Baden commented.  “I guess it was because at the age of 26, it was my duty, and I never gave it the thought it deserved.  However, now and each year at this time, it all comes flooding back.  It was one of the most significant things that happened.”