Nightly News   |  November 03, 2013

Meet the spark behind the eternal flame

Col. Michelle Stewart is the keeper of the eternal flame, which sits as a memorial to slain President John F. Kennedy’s legacy. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight, later this month the 50th anniversary of the assassination of president john f. kennedy . this past week the eternal flame at his grave at arlington national cemetery was brought back after the fixture was renovated. that effort overseen by a woman who has dedicated her life to jfk's legacy. here's nbc's kate snow .

>> reporter: almost five decades ago, it flared to life in one of the country's darkest hours. jacqueline kennedy meticulously planned and led the nation through funeral for the 35th president. from the relentless muffled drums to the riderless horse to the eternal flame hastily constructed at her request.

>> it was a beautiful idea. an eternal flame burning forever in such a sacred spot but constant exposure to rain and the elements has made it an engineering challenge. what does it mean to you?

>> to me this is a source of great inspiration.

>> reporter: colonel michelle stewart is the keeper of the flame . earlier this year her crews moved to it a temporary location and worked to upgrade the permanent fixture.

>> the flame is the symbol of the president's legacy and we can't let that legacy dim or go out no matter how much it rains, how cold it gets.

>> reporter: an engineer with the u.s. army --

>> i don't see a lot of girl in the picture.

>> . no i was the only female in the platoon.

>> reporter: she first came to the memorial nearly 30 years ago after signing up for a life military service . took a photo of kennedy's words on that granite slab.

>> he resonated with me. he helped reinforce what was already there.

>> reporter: she has tackled enormous feats in her career.

>> working in the confines of a fairly small space and under the watchful eyes of so many tourists, we have to get it right. just to have get it right.

>> reporter: the eternal flame will have an underground system with six automatic triggers to make sure the flame never flickers out. on tuesday she hemmed transfer it back to its permanent home.

>> i have the best job in the united stat united states army .

>> reporter: an eternal symbol of kennejohn f. kennedy's legacy, still burning bright.