This picture was taken about a week after Kentucky won the 1996 NCAA Championship.
At that time, I was in The Old Guard. Stationed at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. President Clinton ran on post all the time. It was a secure place. Relatively light risk. The Secret Service would swarm the post. Snipers on the rooftops. Bikers would be on post stopped at not so random points talkiing to the wind. Those huge Suburbans would be stationed at strategic points. All of them with their Tripod mounted .50 Caliber Machine Guns. The post would basically be closed down for a few hours on those days.
Each time he came on post, guys from Alpha Company would swarm the man. The first time that I met Bill, I was walking back from a dentist appointment. I saw a group of our soldiers surrounding someone directly in my path. About ten feet out, I realized that it was President Clinton. I was fairly surprised.
I had taken a copy of U.S. Grants Memoirs with me to read while I waited at the dentist’s office. So I walked on into the crowd and when I got the chance, I asked him to sign my book. He signed it and then asked me how I liked it. He told me that he had read it in college. He stood there and talked to me about U.S. Grant for about 5 minutes.
Changed my opinion of the man. I didn’t really like his policy on the military. But I grew to like the man.
In that picture, I walked up to him and asked him to take a picture with me. He actually talked to me a little about SEC Basketball. Being from Arkansas, he was, of course, a Hog fan. I wonder how he likes John Pelphrey these days.
I have to say. I really wasn’t a big Bill Clinton FP fan. Among other things, he made Yassar Arafat when he should have been hunting him down. He damn near shut down the military even as he upped the tempo with deployments to the Balkans. One thing that I did like was that the move out of Germany and into Eastern Europe started during his Presidency. I don’t know how much he had to do with it. It was a good move.
I knew that eventually President Clinton would be back to McNair. So I had this picture enlarged to get it signed. The next time that I caught him on post, I ran out to try to get him to sign it. I was a bit late. He was already getting back in to his ride. So I approached the vehicle but was cut off by a Secret Service Agent. The guy took the picture from me and promised to get it signed for me. As they drove away, I realized that I hadn’t given him my name.
I thought that was it. No signature and no pic.
About two weeks later, my First Sergeant called me up to his office. I walked in as a guy in a suit walked out. 1SG Thompson looks at me strangely and hands me a large yellow envelope. I open it there in his office and start laughing. The envelope contains the picture signed;
To SGT Kaelin
Thank you for your service to your country.
My Personal experiences with Clinton were great. The man always seemed to have a moment to spare for Joe Soldier. That’s enough for me to give him some respect. I may not have liked all of his policies. Even so, he was a really cool guy. I always thought that he’d be a great guy with whom to hang out, watch a ball game and down a few beers.