WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 18, 2011) -- As the fog and chilly drizzle moved in Thursday, Soldiers representing every Army Special Forces group gathered at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy to pay tribute to the president who authorized the wearing of the green beret just over 50 years ago.

While the crowd of former Special Forces Soldiers and their families watched, Secretary of the Army John McHugh; Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr., commander of Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) and Army 2nd Lt. Christopher Kennedy McKelvy, great nephew of the 42nd president, walked up the granite steps to lay a wreath in the shape of a green beret at the fallen president's grave which is marked by an eternal flame.

On Oct. 12, 1961, Kennedy met with Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough -- known as the father of the Green Berets -- at Fort Bragg, N.C., to discuss funding to further develop the force into a strategic unit and to authorize the green beret as the official headgear of Special Forces.

Kennedy referred to the green beret as a "new elite military icon, a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."

Following the ceremony, JFK's newly commissioned great nephew said it was a great honor to be invited by the Special Forces to participate.

"It was really an honor on a lot of levels… great to be here honoring the president and the work he did, great to be invited by the Green Berets, an outstanding organization with great Americans and great war heroes," McKelvy said.

Later at a luncheon, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers, himself a former Special Forces non-commissioned officer and officer, praised the force saying that while missions have expanded over the decades and tactics, techniques and procedures have evolved, the basic path President Kennedy set Special Forces on 50 years ago remains the path that has endured.

"It is not too much to say that the Special Forces regiment has been central to our success in the broader war with al-Qaida all around the globe, and I'm particularly proud of what the regiment has accomplished in terms of organizing, training, equipping and the combat advising of the regular local defense forces in Afghanistan," he said.

"As we look forward, the demand for Green Berets will be even greater in the future and more central to national security strategy than it is today," Vickers continued. "My charge to you is to continue to excel in executing President Kennedy's vision, remain confident, always humble, relentless and persistent and bold and daring. As ever I expect you to abide by the highest standards of excellence that have always defined the members of the Special Forces regiment."