NEWS10 Special Report: Local man recalls guarding JKF’s eternal - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

NEWS10 Special Report: Local man recalls guarding JKF’s eternal flame

Posted: Updated: Nov 21, 2013 7:20 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. - Friday marks the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy' assassination and one local man was there the day JFK was killed.

November 22, 1963 is a day that many people remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when the President was shot.

Pat Perrella is retired now after a long career as a painting contractorbut before he settled down here, he was a young soldier in our nation's capital.

A picture of a snowy Washington DC in early December 1963 is forever etched in the memory of Pat Perrella.

"That whole month we had been working," says Perrella, "Standing for hours on end."

He still recalls the somber mood of the time while standing guard just weeks after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

"It was difficult, it was work and you realized you were part of something bigger," he explains.

Pat's story begins two years before this fateful time for our nation. At just 22-years-old, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to the Army Honor Guard.

"I wasn't thrilled about it at the time," continues Perrella, "Don't ask me how they pick or how they chose, but all my friends went off overseas and I took a train down to DC."

For nearly two years he took part in State funerals, memorial services, parades and Presidential events, but it was the news of President Kennedy's death that took his service in a different direction.

"The first thing we said was oh my god," he explains.

The days following the assassination included endless lines of dignitaries, tributes and tears for our fallen President. There was also the creation of the eternal flame, the President's final resting spot, where Pat stood for hours on end, holding vigil.

"Sometimes you'd be standing in one position for hours and you wanted to move, but you can't," remembers Perrella, "It was difficult, it was work and you realized you were part of something bigger."

For Perrella, the snowy picture brings back memories of bells and his mother.

"I had tears running down my face and I said I have to just tell the Sergeant, he's got to get me home for Christmas," he says.

Pat did make it home for Christmas that year.

Perrella has since been back to Washington DC with his grandchildren and it is still very emotional for him to visit the eternal flame.

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