Edward M. Kennedy – Private First Class

Edward Moore ‘Ted’ Kennedy was born into what would become one of America’s most storied and enduring political families in American history. His grandfather, John Fitzgerald, was Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts. His father,  Joseph P. Kennedy, was named the Ambassador to Great Britain by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His elder brothers included President John F. Kennedy and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Ted joined the US Army in June of 1951. He completed basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and received training as a Military Policeman at Camp Gordon, Georgia.

Kennedy later acknowledged that his short hitch in the Army was his first prolonged experience and exposure to those from socio-economic groups other than his own, whom previously he had only encountered during brief sojourns on the campaign trail in unfamiliar Boston neighborhoods. Many of Kennedy’s fellow soldiers were working class whites, and one third were African-American. Kennedy would later recall that few were impressed by his pedigree, and many sought to test their mettle against him in fights, but the solidly built football player was in strong physical condition to hold his own. His Drill Instructor would later recall that Kennedy had the physique of an Olympic athlete.

Assigned to duty in Europe, Ted was once confronted off the base by a few anti-American Frenchmen, who threatened him with sharpened wooden cattle prods. Kennedy was able to fight them off with a bicycle chain he had concealed on his person, which was a common practice at the time for MP’s.

A far less perilous, and certainly more humorous, incident occurred when Kennedy’s mother Rose came to visit and took him to a reception.  He returned to the base by chauffer driven limousine and as he entered the gates on foot, his mother called out, “Oh Teddy dear! You forgot your dancing shoes!” Overheard by his fellow soldiers, they never tired in referring to the Private as “Teddy dear” and each time he left the base they would remind him not to forget his dancing shoes.

Upon his discharge, at the same rank he entered, Private First Class, Ted Kennedy would resume his education, graduating Law School in 1959. He would be elected to the US Senate in 1962, and re-elected for each succeeding term until his death in 2009. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, 100 feet from his brother Robert, who was a veteran of the US Navy.