In a newly released e-book, a former United States Secret Service agent shares personal stories about his unusual three-year assignment with the children of President John F. Kennedy after their widowed mother married Aristotle Onassis.
James Kalafatis spent 25 years in the Secret Service serving six presidents and, after writing what he intended to be an autobiography for his family, he has published his journey in the form of a memoir titled “A Secret Service Memoir.”
In the book, Kalafatis recounts his experiences, foreign and domestic, ranging from humorous to frightening and bizarre. He also recalls other agents whose stories he felt needed to be told for posterity.
Born and raised in New York City, Kalafatis became a Secret Service agent in 1968 and received the assignment with the Kennedy Onassis family due to his ethnic background and language skills.
“[Growing up], my parents made sure I learned to read and write Greek and continue the centuries-old traditions of their ancestors,” Kalafatis tells The Pappas Post. “Their greatest gift was taking me to Greece three times as a boy. Those summers in Greece greatly affected the adult I became.”
Kalafatis says that, after Jackie Kennedy married Onassis, she called then Secret Service Director James Rowley requesting a Greek speaker since her children would spend their summer and holiday breaks in her new husband’s native country.
“The assignment allowed me to get to know [the Kennedys] and share unusual experiences I could never have imagined,” Kalafatis says. “My Greek language ability also gave me some other wonderful opportunities to work in Greece during my 25-year career and travel all over the world.”
As an avid student of history, Kalafatis learned that the United States’ story arc would have been very different if President Kennedy had not been killed and re-elected to a second term.
The Secret Service agent’s work involved interactions with the widowed Jackie O, revealing rare insights into the persona of one of the most admired women of the 20th century.
Kalafatis’ experiences during a four-year assignment at headquarters provide readers with behind-the-scenes insights into the relationship between the Secret Service, Department of Defense, CIA and Congress. The assignment showed the author how the American government works and why, when it doesn’t, it can lead to disastrous consequences.
The New York native says he’s been regularly contacted for interviews by authors and documentarians conducting research for projects.
“The everyday work of an agent is very different from that portrayed in highly sensationalized movies and TV dramas,” Kalafatis says. “Real people do this job.”
The author says he takes pride in knowing and working with talented and diverse professionals, some of whom he considers to be true heroes.
“Several of my friends were killed in the line of duty, and one agent saved a president’s life, changing the course of American history,” he says. “Others will never know if they, too, may have prevented a horrific act by doing their job.”
“By the end of this book, you will have gained a new perspective of the Secret Service and how the demands of an agent’s job affect their personal lives,” he says.
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