Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How I Spent New Year's Eve

I had an interesting experience for New Years. I was ordered to “Escort” Duty for the Ford Funeral. The job was to was to accompany VIPs attending the Ford Funeral. Why VIPs needed a military officer to ride along in the car with them while some an enlisted man drove, I don’t know. Someone decided that arrangement was part of the protocol, so mine was not to question why instead but to do and then sit around for the rest of my 12 hour shift. It turns out that when an appointed president dies over the New Year’s holiday, not a lot of VIPs are willing to fly into Washington between 1900 and 07. So, I had a couple of days of sitting around the command center in the bowling alley on one of the bases in the DC area. On New Year’s Eve, the dispatcher got word that the Ford Family wanted escorts to be posted closer to where they were staying at the Blair House. So, each of the services pulling the 19-7 shift had to give up one body to go over there. Since the duty meant changing out of camis into service alphas, the most uncomfortable uniform in the seabag, the other officer and I flipped a coin to see who would have to suck it up and head over there. I lost.

Turned out to be the best coin flip I ever lost. I changed into my alphas, checked out my car, got assigned a driver, and headed over to the Blair House. The Blair House is directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, which means that it is on that part of the street that has been closed to traffic. That makes it a little difficult to find if you are driving around looking for it in the dark. After stopping to ask a K-9 Police Officer, we eventually found it. Once we got in, the manager of the house posted us in the protocol office. While in there, all the members of the Ford Family came in, and introduced themselves to us. Later, the butler brought us all dinner, which we ate, sitting at the desks in there.

After that, the Fords all headed to bed around 2200. At that point, the manager gave us me a tour of the bottom floor. I knew that a lot of history had happened at the Blair House. Lincoln liked to spend afternoons there, getting away from the heat. The couch he sat on is there, as is the mantle above the fireplace where he rested his heels. The marks of boots are still there. Truman used Blair House as his office while the White House was being renovated. There are still bullet holes in the foyer where the Secret Service fought off an assassination attempt by Puerto Rican nationals. The table where he conducted his cabinet meetings is still there, each seat with a cushion embroidered by a cabinet member’s wife.

The reason the manager gave me the tour is because I asked him where Truman’s office was while he lived there. The manager took me to a little room that is now furnished like a little sitting room with a couch and chairs and a couple of tables. Truman brought a mantle over from the White House so that a little part of if would be there with him. That room is where the buck stopped. However, there is no desk in the room. So I asked the manager where that desk is now, since he had already mentioned that none of the furniture had been removed from the premises. He said: “We put it in the protocol office.” I stared at him, agog.

“We ate dinner off the desk where the buck stopped?” I asked.


How did you spend you New Year’s Eve?