Today, we mourn the loss of a true American hero. John Glenn distinguished himself as a Marine pilot in World War II and Korea. A decorated fighter pilot, his wingman was none other than baseball legend, Ted Williams.
Continuing his service into the 1950s, he was later selected as one of the original “Mercury 7” astronauts and was catapulted onto the national stage when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. In so doing, he became a symbol of victory in our ongoing “Space Race” against the Soviet Union.
Barely two years after his historic flight, he resigned from NASA and announced his candidacy for the US Senate. As a Senator, he represented the state of Ohio for nearly 25 years. Then, at the age of 77, he returned to space for a historic mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. His trip aboard Discovery made him the oldest person ever to travel in space.
I remember well the media buzz that erupted when Glenn took flight aboard the Space Shuttle. At the time, I was living in the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas (only a few miles away from Johnson Space Center – home of Mission Control). When Glenn arrived at the airport, several greeted him with signs reading: “Godspeed, again, John Glenn!” The city also temporarily renamed NASA Rd 1 as “John Glenn Parkway.”
After his flight aboard the Shuttle, he quietly returned to private life. As of 2016, he was the last surviving member of the “Mercury 7” astronauts.
On a more personal note, his wife, Annie Glenn suffered from the same speech issue that plagued me for years (and in some respects, continues to plague me) – stuttering. Granted, my stuttering was never as severe as Ms. Glenn’s, but I praise her as an shining example of someone who refused to be halted by their disabilities. Annie Glenn, Drew Lynch, Mel Tillis, Winston Churchill, and Scatman John – these are but a few of the world’s stutterers who have achieved success despite their speech impediments.
Godspeed, John Glenn.