WASHINGTON — Army Secretary John McHugh and two other dignitaries visited the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy for a solemn ceremony Thursday in which a wreath was laid to mark the 50th anniversary of the green beret, the official headgear of Special Forces.

Kennedy approved the green beret after visiting Fort Bragg, N.C., in late 1961. In a message to then-Special Forces Commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough, Kennedy wrote: “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worth and inspiring. I am sure the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times abroad.”

Two years later, a Special Forces soldier would place a green beret on the president’s casket as a tribute.

One of the dignitaries at Thursday’s ceremony was Army 2nd Lt. Christopher Kennedy McKelvy, Kennedy’s great nephew. He joined the Army in January 2011 and was later selected for Officer Candidate School.

McKelvy joked that he received a “very strong recruitment pitch” Thursday to join Special Forces, but he is focused on his current assignment.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now