Sunday, February 05, 2017

Godspeed, John Glenn

With the orgy of grief over 2016's celebrity deaths -- beginning with David Bowie and continuing through Debbie Reynolds* -- one was undeservedly overlooked. I'm ashamed of myself that his passing without barely a notice from me.

John Glenn changed the world. And then kept trying to improve it. He was an example to us all by living with tenacity, decency and courage.  

•  He dropped out of college to enlist after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He became a fighter pilot and during WWII and Korea won six Distinguished Flying Crosses.

•  In 1962, he became the first American to orbit earth. It was a perfect, five hour flight. President Kennedy awarded him the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

•  For more than 20 years he served as Senator from Ohio. He authored the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, which declared nuclear devices a threat to the United States and world peace.

•  In 1998, he returned to space. He was 77 when he volunteered himself as the subject of weightlessness on seniors.

He and his wife Annie were married for 73 years, until his death two months ago. She's a hero in her own right. For while she was married to a photogenic media magnet who almost always had a microphone in his face, Annie stuttered. So badly that it was rumored that she was either deaf of "retarded." Her solicitous husband did what he could to preserve her privacy and dignity.

In the 1970s, she finally received treatment she could respond to and used her newfound voice to become a crusader, in Ohio and beyond, for those with disabilities. I was aware of this in real-time but didn't really pay too much attention. Of course John Glenn and his wife were doing great things for others. That's what John Glenn did.

John Glenn, like Muhammad Ali, was an American original and an American hero. The 1960s were the years that shaped my sensibilities. And these two gentlemen shaped the 1960s. I owe them a great deal. We all do.

Seeing Hidden Figures this afternoon reminded me of Col. Glenn. I'm going to say a prayer for him tonight, and I'll apologize for not doing so on the night he died.

*Only in death would those two be mentioned in the same breath!

1 comment:

  1. I am just a little too young to appreciate his influence on the 60s. But I thought he was remarkable to go into space again at age 77!


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