1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


  A Trip From the President
 John McCurdy Aug 09

Several years ago I was returning from playing golf in White Sulphur, (at Valley View, not the Greenbrier).  When we drove through White Sulphur Springs on our return trip we noticed that police officers were at almost every street intersection in the town, State Police, Sheriffs and City policemen were very much in evidence. I recall my golf buddy remarking, “damn, what’s going on, the President visiting”?  Later as we passed through Lewisburg we saw the biggest airplane we’d ever seen, floating in for a landing at the airport.

That evening on the news, we found that, indeed, Vice President Cheney had visited the Greenbrier to speak with a convention that day and that President Bush was going to be there the next day.

That evening I had a phone call from my cousin, who is with the Secret Service and travels with the President. “ Hey John, want to see the new Presidential Limousine, if you do, come on up to the Fire House at the Greenbrier Valley Airport, we have them inside!  When I told him we’d be there and I suggested we have dinner together, he said he had to go eat right after the call because he had duty guarding the automobiles that night till midnight.

Later, I think all my family was there and we marveled at the new Cadillac Limo that was on its first official trip. The older limousine was also on hand, as well as four black GMC Yukon SUVs.  We were allowed to take photos of the cars but could not photograph the door thickness for security reasons. The Agents also would not discuss how many agents had accompanied the president on this trip, however it wasn’t too hard to estimate by the eight on duty in the hanger and multiply it by about 10 or more! 

The next day President Bush arrived on Air force One, was met on the runway of the airport by the limousines and whisked to White Sulphur Springs. US 219 was closed from above the airport to the intersection with Interstate 64. I-64 was closed from Lewisburg to Harts Run interchange and Route 6o from Harts Run to the Front Gate aft the Greenbrier.  The President was there about two hours, he spoke to the meeting, shook a few hands and then the process was reversed and he flew back to Washington!

The limousines and other vehicles were placed aboard the huge aircraft we had seen before and they flew out the next morning!  Peace and tranquility had once again came to the Greenbrier Valley.    

All of this furor for a three-hour trip made me do some research. Paul Livesay was the son of a old friend form the Prison Service and had attended Alderson schools. Paul left college in Texas and joined the Marines at the beginning of the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry, as a Sergeant he saw a great deal of action, and in fact, was the only survivor in his squadron on one action, (his last)! He spent a number of months in the hospitals of the Far East and in the USA. We became reacquainted with him when he revisited Alderson while still recuperating at Walter Reed. After a few more visits we just gave him a key and told him not to wake us when he came in! 

After his recuperation Paul volunteered to go back to Vietnam and was told to “forget it!”. Instead he was assigned to HMX 1, the Marine Helicopter Security attached to the President and Vice President and assigned to Quantico and Andrews Force Air Base in DC.  Paul traveled with Vice President Agnew all around the world and with Nixon to greet the returning astronauts on the USS Hornet. He was my first resource for my education in the care and security of the President.

His stories, later confirmed by others, of the precaution taken by the Secret Service and other agencies for any presidential trip, were at first unbelievable. Stories of how every bridge and under-pass are checked and secured and then checked again just before the President passed, how manholes were checked and welded shut and windows over-looking the cavalcade route were checked and secured. The redundancy in equipment and other gear, such as extra limos and SUVs, the extra staffing on duty in area hospitals, making sure blood of the correct type and fully staffed and empty operating rooms were available within a few miles just in case' and the myriad  of other things done to protect the President from harm. How the Secret Service Agent were taught to fire their weapons from a fully erect position rather than the generally preferred method of a crouch, In the erect position they provide more of a shield with their bodies for the Presidents protection!  

The total cost per hour of his protection, including both military and civilian staff, airplanes, helicopters, boats, automobiles is never public ally admitted but I have heard that the figure exceeds $1,000,000.00 Dollars a day by a sizable margin.

The Secret Service does a great job, they are totally prepared to take a bullet themselves rather than allow the President to be shot. If you remember after the Dallas Assassination of President Kennedy there were excuses upon excuses from the FBI and other agencies, The Secret Service offered no excuses, they merely bowed their head in shame. 

I don’t begrudge it any of it, we must protect our President! I do somewhat begrudge the protection of Ex-Presidents that exceed over $50,000,000.00 per year total, not including pensions and allowances and that endure almost forever after they leaves office, I would consider four years a perfectly adequate amount of time for anything other than their Pensions.  

**Note; Paul Livesay, after his Marine Corps duty moved to Colorado, a few years later he drove his little Volkswagen Bug off a mountain road and over 700 foot cliff. There was much conjecture that his Vietnam experiences contributed to the accident. His family scattered his ashes from one of the Colorado Mountains he loved so well.