John Glenn: An American Hero

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

“And I think it's gonna be a long, long time
Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no, I'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone”

            (Rocket Man – Elton John)

America's first Rocket Man, Fighter Pilot, Astronaut and United States Senator from Ohio, John Glenn, has left us for the ultimate orbit. Glenn, 95 years young, died on December 8, 2016.

Glenn was an American Hero, in a time when a country needed a positive boost, and his vision and perseverance is what history books are made of. John Glenn didn’t study history, he made it, as he was the first U.S. Astronaut to orbit the earth a total of three times in 1962. A Marine Combat Pilot, he flew 149 combat missions, and his planes took their share of fire, but Glenn always had a knack for getting his aircraft back to base. Little did the world know then that his biggest challenge was yet to come.

On February 20, 1962 Glenn was the lone pilot in the “Friendship 7” spacecraft. After orbiting earth three times, Glenn ran into some technical problems but he managed to get his spacecraft home while a nation was on edge. That mission lasted five hours, and he was 162 miles in space at 17,500 miles per hour. Rightfully so, he lived to see an international space station where you can dock your spacecraft and live in space for long periods of time.

In response to that mission Glenn said, “I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.”

His sense of humor was timely and smart as well. “As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind — every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”

Glenn’s mission was a direct rebuttal to the Soviet Union’s space program. One that caught this nation off guard and made America nervous, as a cold war with Russia was escalating. “We hadn’t really thought that any nation could even touch us technically,” Glenn had said in 1998, recalling the attitude at the time. “And all at once, here was this bunch of Soviets over there, for heaven’s sake, outdoing the United States of America in technical and scientific things.”

As if his war heroics and going to space weren’t enough, Glenn became a U.S. Senator, a democrat representing the state of Ohio.  He would serve four terms and was on all the top committees at various levels. Glenn then decided he wanted to be President, and why not. He certainly proved he knew how to lead. Glenn gave up his bid though, and Walter Mondale was nominated.

Glenn returned to space at the age of 77, and when asked about his age by a reporter, Glenn responded “Just because I’m 77 doesn’t mean I don’t have a dream.” It’s only fitting that Glenn went on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998--the oldest person to fly in space.

How remarkable that an explorer and pioneer didn’t just see the fruit of his labors, he got to experience it all over again at the age of 77, a journey started and completed.

Semper Fi Sir and God Speed John Glenn. 

“For here

Am I sitting in a tin can

Far above the world

Planet Earth is blue

And there's nothing I can do.

 (David Bowie – Space Oddity)


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