Last week I talked a bit about Major David R. Mackey. Continuing with the veteran theme, I’ll reprint a veteran spotlight on Kenneth Jordan, written by Deb Sauber, which was printed 40 years ago this month in the NEWS. Mr. Jordan passed away in 1993. He was a native McLean County resident and a proud military veteran.
“Calhoun resident Kenneth Jordan takes great pride in the land called the United States of America. He also takes pride in serving 18 months in Ceremonial Detachment during his term in the Armed Services, which lasted just less than two years.
“Jordan was one of 90 chosen from 8,000 interviewed for the duty, Jordan recalls. ‘All I was told was that it was a good duty, and to try to pass the interview.’ And so he did. The 8,000 men were interviewed individually, over a period of three months. Each man was called into the sportscenter-sized arena to salute the officer at the first table. This officer began the process by asking the soldier questions. Jordan was asked both serious and humorous questions, and his responses and reactions were the basis of the interview. The remaining officers observed him from all sides, as the tables were set in a U-formation. After talking with the first officer, the soldier moved on to the remaining tables, until being interviewed by each officer in the room. The process took about a half-hour. Not until the soldier was completely finished and had walked out the door, after giving his final salute, was the next candidate brought into the room.
“The interviews took place in Kansas, a point of re-location. From there, 300 men were sent to Washington to complete six weeks of training. Of that group, only 90 were allowed to become part of the special company. Jordan was among those chosen. During his months of Ceremonial Detachment, Jordan served as an Honor Guard. He guarded presidents Truman and Eisenhower and shook hands with President Kennedy.
“His duties in the guard were many and varied. His post at the White House Main Gate afforded Jordan the opportunity to meet many foreign dignitaries on their way to see the president. Jordan often spent his days off in the Senate or House of Representatives. Always interested in politics and history, the position gave him first-hand sight at how the country is run.
“Jordan also worked at Arlington Cemetery while stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia, North Post. Jordan’s company was in charge of military funerals, and it was not uncommon for the local man to be a casket bearer over 22 times daily. The drawback of the Arlington detail laid in assisting in identifying the bodies to be buried. ‘I didn’t like that part too well,’ offers Jordan. He remembers when national attention was drawn to the cemetery during his stay there. Five flyers shot down over Yugoslavia were buried in the same grave, upon approval from their families. Jordan recalls practicing folding the flag to ensure a fit unit. The flag from the soldier’s casket is given to his family.
“His most prestigious assignment in the detachment was serving guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A soldier cannot volunteer for the duty — he must be chosen. One of the three guards manned the tomb 24 hours a day. The shift consisted of one-hour guard duty followed by two hours off. Smiling, he recalls that about 10 minutes before going on his duty round he would dress in the basement of the amphitheater, which seats about 4,000 people. One wall of the basement was mirrored, and the guards stood in front of it to check their pleats to ensure they appeared in top form. Etched into the mirror were the words, ‘The World’s Best.’ Jordan recalls, ‘What a feeling that was, to stand in front of that huge mirror and see those words looking back at you.’
“Jordan knows that if he had been in Washington at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination, he would have been called upon to assist with the funeral ceremony. A unit of men were charged with the care of the 33 horses used in the funerals, including the famous Black Jack used in President Kennedy’s funeral march. These men not only fed the horses, but groomed them right down to the hooves, which were carefully polished.
“After serving at Arlington Cemetery, Jordan appreciates the well-kept appearance of the Calhoun Cemetery in recent years.”
Twelve years later Kenneth Jordan was laid to rest at that same cemetery, and it is still well-maintained all these years later. All of our McLean County servicemen and women have a story to tell, and I thank every one of them for serving our country.
If you or someone you know from this area served in the military, or are currently serving, please ensure we have copies of photos or other documentation from your time in the military. We will gladly make copies, if you want to keep the originals. For some veterans we have a lot of information, but for others we have little or nothing. In addition to the binders of information we have for the different veterans, we also have a lot of artifacts in the military section of the museum/research center for you to see, and we’d be happy to show you around.
The Treasure House has holiday items for sale and some great gift ideas for Christmas and otherwise. There are also winter clothes and coats for sale. Come on out and get some good deals before they’re gone!
The Museum and Treasure House are open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — the Museum from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and the Treasure House from 10 a.m- 4 p.m. We’re at 540 Main St., Calhoun, and our number is 270-499-5033. Stop in and see us.
I wish everyone a great week!