I have just learned that John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962, passed away today at age 95 at the Ohio State University medical center in Columbus.
Glenn was the last surviving member of the original Mercury astronauts who also later flew on the Space Shuttle in October 1998, becoming the oldest person ever to fly in space at age 77. That should have been enough to make him a hero in anyone’s book. Yet he had the right stuff long before he became an astronaut, flying 59 combat missions as a Marine pilot in the South Pacific during World War II after enlisting in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He later flew 90 combat missions over Korea during two tours of duty in that conflict. He was a man who never walked away from danger in the service of his country. For his bravery he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and many other honors.
It seems these days the label "hero" is thrown around too easily, affixed to any individual who is simply doing his or her job. But John Glenn was so much more than that. He always did far beyond what was expected of him, and often at great risk of physical harm or death. That is a hero in my book. There aren’t too many out there anymore, and it is always a sad day when one leaves us behind.
John Glenn led a long and honorable life . . . a heroic life. He has slipped the surly bonds of earth for the last time. May he rest in peace.
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