BLACKSBURG, Va. -

Virginia Tech's famed Skipper cannon celebrated a milestone in Blacksburg today. It's birthday also calls to mind an American tragedy.

The Skipper was first shot off on the day of President John F. Kennedy's death and is a symbol of family, tradition, and Hokie pride.

The bellowing sound of the canon steeped in history, and known to the Virginia Tech community only as Skipper, has stood the test of time and continues to be a symbol of history and tradition.

"We really didn't know what we were doing and we didn't know what we created and we didn't understand at the time that we created something that would last in the hearts, minds and souls of the Corp of Cadets and Virginia Tech and their spirit," Ben "Butch" Harper told Your Hometown News Leader.

Harper and two of his cadet comrades wanted their school to have the biggest cannon ever. The Skipper was fired for the first time and came to life on November 22, 1963. Ironically, the very day former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Skipper was given its name to honor the late president's legacy, Kennedy's Naval background and love of the sea. For the new generation, Skipper evokes awe just as the men who created it still do today.

"That's amazing, says Virginia Tech senior, Jeremy Boone. Boone is also the Skipper Crew Gun Captain. You're talking to the like gods of Skipper Crew. It's just a great honor, a great experience. Couldn't ask for anything better."

The first firing of the Skipper was a 50-volley salute, a military tradition to honor the death of a president. A 21-volley salute was given Thursday afternoon, reminding the new generation of the history and the bonds of brotherhood.

"I love these guys to death, I trust them with my life. We're really close, we going to be great friends, even after we get out of here," said Boone.