It was a fine October afternoon in Washington, D.C. A fine day for a birthday for a very special man, the 34th President of the United States.
Today, however, his surroundings were far different than the elegant trappings of the Oval Office. On his 78th birthday, Dwight D. Eisenhower is in Walter Reed Army Hospital. He is weak and struggling to recover from his 7th heart attack.
The afternoon is quiet when, suddenly, music drifts in from outside. Ike’s wife, Mamie, slowly pushes his wheelchair to a window and opens it. The great man, dressed in a simple robe and pajamas, is startled at what he sees. Hundreds of people are gathered on the grounds below. When they see him, they applaud and wave flags and all at once begin singing “Happy Birthday to You.” The U.S. Army band is there too. Tears form in the President’s eyes as the band begins playing a medley of his favorite songs. “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, the state where he was born, the West Point graduation song “Army Blue.” The General salutes as the band plays “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” He dabs at his eyes as he hears one of his favorite songs from “The Sound of Music”… “Climb every Mountain… Ford every Stream…” Is he thinking of the dangerous mountain of D Day, in 1944, when he commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history… 150,000 men, 6,000 ships, 2,500 aircraft?
All that is far away now and replaced by the happy notes of the Army Band and the sight of hundreds of fellow Americans who have turned out to show their admiration and their love for him. We can only hope that the memory of that love stayed close to him as he moved through the final months of his life. For this glorious birthday was to be… his last. Dwight D. Eisenhower was an American hero who truly climbed every mountain and forded every stream.