When President John F. Kennedy (here, receiving military honors with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David M. Shoup) visited the "Eighth and Eye" Barracks in 1962, he verified that Thomas Jefferson's instructions had been followed faithfully. JFK's Marines showed why, 16 months later, those instructions were so important.
That Friday afternoon was unseasonably warm in Washington. Not quite two weeks earlier, the temperature had hovered in the low 20s for our Marine Corps Birthday parade at the Iwo Jima statue in Arlington. As I walked through the main gate of the Marine Barracks—known throughout the Corps as "8th and I" (or "Eighth and Eye" to the truly salty), named for its street location in the city's Southeast quadrant—another officer walked past me, barely acknowledging my greeting. His face was ashen.
"They killed him," he said to no one in particular. He looked as though he'd just lost his best friend.