The Secret Service agent who was too late to save President John F. Kennedy from an assassin’s bullets 55 years ago says that the gruesome scene — and his guilt over not acting more quickly — plunged him into a decades-long, alcohol-fueled depression that tore him from his family and nearly killed him.
Clint Hill was assigned to guard Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, when former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald squeezed off three shots from his bolt-action Carcano rifle, killing the young president.
Hill leapt into action trying to shield the president, but got to him only after the second bullet shattered Kennedy’s skull.
“I can see the gunshot wound. In the room that’s in the skull I can see that there is no more brain matter left,” Hill told The Sun newspaper of the UK.
“That is something I could never, and have never been able to, erase from my mind.”
Hill, now 86, did his best to block out the trauma for nearly a decade as he worked to protect widowed First Lady Jackie Kennedy and then JFK’s successor, Lyndon Johnson.
But it resurfaced with a fury following his retirement in 1975.
Hill ignored his friends and family from 1976 to 1982 — a period where he was racked with nightmares as he tried to suppress his pain with booze.
“I self-medicated with alcohol during that period of time,” he said. “I just didn’t care about anything and I didn’t want to have any contact with anybody.
“Friends would come by and I wouldn’t even acknowledge that they were there. I just ignored everything.”
Including his kids.
“I wasn’t as close to my children as I should have been,” he said. “They grew up pretty much without a father — their mother raised them.”
He quit drinking in 1982 after a doctor told him he was living on borrowed time.
But it took Hill another eight years to work up the courage to return to Dallas.
“Finally, by 1990, I was able to go back to Dallas and walk the streets of Dealey Plaza up into the Texas School Book Depository and look up at the sixth- floor window where Oswald shot from, and then come away knowing that I had really done everything I could do that day,” he recalled.
On the emotional mend, Hill sought to repair his relationship with his family
“It’s only in the last 10 or 15 years that my two sons and I are much closer than we’ve ever been,” he said — “which is wonderful for me.”
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