Speaking of Heroes
“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul… we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” Neil Armstrong
“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.” James Lovell
“We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.” Eugene Cernan
A few weeks ago, I received a wonderful reminder of the importance of intrepid endeavors and the humanistic value they can bring.
The event that had me thinking of this was The Lindbergh Foundation’s 35th Anniversary celebration, which hosted former U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong, James Lovell and Eugene Cernan – the first man to walk on the moon, the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, and the last man to walk on the moon. They were there to talk of their personal involvement with The Lindbergh Foundation. You see, Neil Armstrong helped found the Foundation as co-chair of its endowment fundraising efforts. Captain James Lovell was on its first Board. And, Captain Eugene Cernan was a recipient of the Foundation’s Spirit Award in 2007. But, here’s the part that really stands out to me – they didn’t focus solely on this part of their involvement.
Their reminisces were also about their interactions with Charles A. Lindbergh himself when they were younger men and dedicating their lives to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” as President John F. Kennedy envisioned. They discussed what it had meant to have this great aviator express interest and support in what they were endeavoring to do while risking their lives to do it, just as Lindbergh had done in 1927 when he crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone. They personalized their involvement with him. And, even though it’s been forty years or more, it was apparent that they still treasured these encounters.
And, here’s the poignant part for me: I grew up regarding these men as heroes, as did others in my generation. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon when I had just turned five years old. I was still five years old when Jim Lovell and his team exhibited extraordinary resolve and engineering expertise in returning safely from the Apollo 13 mission. And, I was only eight when Eugene Cernan made those last footprints in the moon’s dust. So, I was too young to fully appreciate the enormity of what they, their fellow astronauts, and the roughly four hundred thousand people that supported the U.S. Space Program, did over those twelve or so years – from Mercury, to Gemini and, ultimately, Apollo. But, it fired my imagination during that time, as I played with my Apollo model I had built and imagined that I was there too. They, however, were actually living an adventure that most could only imagine in science fiction just a few short years before. Think of that – in all the millennia of human existence, only twelve individuals have set foot on another celestial body; and for children of my age, it was just part of what was. It was only later that I came to appreciate the engineering and technical feats accomplished, and absolute bravery needed to do this. But, at first, it was just the wonderful adventures that these men were undertaking. To the child then, they were – and, to the adult now, are – heroes.
So, hearing these three men speak with fond remembrance of their meetings with Charles A. Lindbergh, someone who accomplished his remarkable feat of navigation, daring, stamina and success 85 years ago, I was struck by the impact that he had on them. They, in turn, gave back the same to my generation. And, I cannot help but think that I’ll be reminiscing about meeting these three intrepid, very smart and honorable men in the years to come, while wishing that I had been fortunate enough to also meet Charles Lindbergh, as well.
You can find details on The Lindbergh Foundation Aviation Green Alliance here .
Here is the announcement of FedEx membership in The Lindbergh Foundation Aviation Green Alliance as a founding member.
And, find out more about The Lindbergh Foundation’s efforts to continue Charles Lindbergh’s commitment to nature and technology at this article in State Aviation Journal’s March/April edition , starting on page 23. It gives some details on why FedEx was interested.
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