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Legendary Astronaut John Glenn Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

      Eastern’s Dr. David Bradstreet remembers growing up when John Glenn was a household name. Glenn was among America’s “space-age” heroes of the 1950s and 1960s. During the Cold War’s space race, he gained international fame for being the first American to orbit the earth. He instantly became America’s heroic “Daniel Boone” of the 20th century. He encapsulated the adventurous, “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality of his generation. Author Tom Wolfe writes that Glenn was “the last true national hero America has ever had.” In politics he was able to transcend party lines and was a uniting figure during his time as a senator. Glenn was dedicated to his family, community, country and God.

      Although he passed away in December, Glenn’s funeral was not held until last Thursday, April 6, which would have been his 74th wedding anniversary. Led by a team of white horses, Glenn’s funeral procession marched through the hallowed grounds at Arlington National Cemetery.

      Ninety-six years before Glenn had been born in the small town of Cambridge, Ohio, the son of a railroad conductor and a teacher. Glenn lived through the financial hardships of the Depression, and he worked his way through school. From his parents Glenn learned the value of hard work, and from his Presbyterian upbringing he developed a deep and abounding faith in God.

      He married his high school sweetheart, Anna Castor, on April 6, 1943. Anna had a speech stammer, but to a young John Glenn, this did not matter. If there is such a thing as true love, John and Anna experienced it. They would spend the next 73 years together.

     Glenn volunteered for the Marine Corps just after the U.S. entered World War Two on Dec. 7, 1941. As a fighter pilot, he flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific Theater and 90 missions during the Korean conflict. He earned several of the military’s highest medals for bravery. Later in the 1950s, Glenn was accepted as one of the original seven test pilots in the “Mercury 7” astronaut program.

      In 1962 he was chosen to fly the mission that would send a man to orbit earth. Historian Dr. Walter McDougall writes that Glenn’s mission was a “national catharsis unparalleled….It seemed that he had given Americans back their self-respect, and more than that—it seemed Americans dared again to hope.”

      After retiring from the military, Glenn served for 24 years as an Ohio senator. In 1998, at the age of 77, he reemerged as a national hero when he became the oldest person to fly in space. Upon his return to earth he famously stated to reporters, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible.” Glenn kept flying as a pilot until age 90. During his final years, Glenn remained active as a true believer in service to one’s family and community. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He leaves behind his wife, two children and extended family. To paraphrase the words of General George S. Patton: we should thank God that such people as John Glenn have lived.

      Sources: NY Times, Washington Post

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