By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date August 14, 2015. Pool photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais.
Secretary of State John Kerry was in Havana, Cuba this morning for the formal flag raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy. The Colors fly over Cuba again.
Secretary Kerry took with him Three Marines who took down the U.S. flag in Cuba in 1961. Today, they watched it rise again:
It was a few days into January 1961 when three Marines at the U.S. Embassy in Havana were given a sad task: Take down the American flag. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was shutting down the diplomatic compound and pulling Americans out, a response to the downward spiral in U.S. relations with the new government of Fidel Castro.
The noncommissioned officer in charge at the embassy asked for three volunteers — “the biggest, ugliest Marines you can find,” recalled retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Jim Tracy, then a sergeant. He and two others — then-Lance Cpl. Larry C. Morris and then-Cpl. F.W. Mike East — were sent out to part a crowd of about 300 Cubans and take down Old Glory, Tracy said.
“We didn’t have anybody on the sidewalks at all,” Tracy said. “They knew what we were going to do.”
Marine Corps veterans Francis ‘Mike’ East, James Tracy and Larry Morris wait to present the U.S. flag to Marines stationed in Cuba during the raising of the U.S. flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba on Friday, Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
On Friday, the Marines, now in their 70s, returned to Havana alongside Secretary of State John F. Kerry to take part in a ceremony to raise the flag again. It has been more than 54 years since U.S. relations with Cuba were severed, but the embassy has reopened following an agreement reached earlier this year between Havana and Washington.
In a video released by the State Department ahead of the ceremony, the Marine veterans are visibly emotional while describing their memories of Cuba and taking the flag down. They could have removed it quickly and gone back inside, but instead folded it properly outdoors as Cubans watched.
“That was a touching moment,” said East, who later retired as a gunnery sergeant. “To see Old Glory flying for the last time in Cuba, you know, it didn’t seem right. You know, it just seemed like something was wrong, something was missing, you know.”
The Marines were interviewed in The New York Times earlier this week. The Marines Who Took Down the American Flag in Havana.
Here is a link to the video of Secretary John Kerry’s remarks at the flag raising ceremony. Secretary Kerry’s Remarks in Havana, Cuba.
UPDATE: Arizona Senator Jeff Flake accompanied Secretary Kerry for the flag raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. Why this lone Republican accompanied Kerry. Sen Flake issued this Statement:
Flake Statement on Reopening of U.S. Embassy in Cuba
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba:
“The United States will be able to do much more to protect and serve U.S. citizens in Cuba and encourage a better future for the Cuban people with an American flag flying over our embassy in Havana. More specifically, I hope this move will hasten the end of U.S. imposed restrictions on Americans travelling to the island. The more U.S. travel to Cuba, the better.”