Why I Admire John Glenn and Think You Should Too

American aviator, astronaut and war hero John Glenn has died at the age of 95. He was the last of the Mercury Seven, that group of test adventurers extraordinaire of whom Tom Wolfe wrote in The Right Stuff — men who inspired a generation to dream of reaching the stars.

It is fair to say, that few in the history of the 20th century have left such a diverse and singular legacy for heroic accomplishment. I admire Glenn the same way I admire Teddy Roosevelt. Not necessarily for his politics or philosophical genius, but because he represents the very best of those virtues which remind us to persevere.

Here are some of the landmarks of legacy in the life of John Glenn.

  1. Hero of World War II and Korean War Glenn was known as a tenacious Marine and aviator who flew 63 combat missions in the Pacific and 59 during the Korean war.
  1. He Was Awarded One of Our Nation’s Highest Medals – During Peacetime: In 1957 Glenn became the first man to make a supersonic transcontinental flight, for which he was given the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross, his fifth.
  1. He Was the First American to Orbit the Earth: There are big achievements, but some defy normal descriptives. Glenn’s was not only a member of the Mercury Seven, but he became the first American to orbit the earth, and the 5th man in history to go into space.
  1. He Became a Distinguished Statesman: Glenn would serve in the United States senate for decades, and even ran for President of the United States.
  1. He was President of My Favorite Cola company in the world: So this one is personal. On a recent trip to Tennessee I was intrigued by the packaging of a moon pie and RC cola. Somehow I think Glenn would have approved. After all, the great astronaut also served as president of RC Cola.
  1. He Remained Fit, Aware and Ready Throughout His Life: In 1989 Glenn successfully defended himself against an attacker more than thirty years his junior who slugged him in the face at a public event. Glenn was 68 years old at the time, but had no problem subdueing his attacker. Enough said.
  1. He Became the Oldest Man Ever to Go Into Space: In 1998, Glenn once again doffed an astronaut space suit and joined the team of the Challenger, becoming the oldest man in history to go into space.
  1. He “Filled the Unforgiving Minute with Sixty Seconds of Distance Run”: From his early manhood forward, nearly every decade of his life was marked by an epic accomplishment. Most men aspire to have one great decade. Glenn hit grand slams in each of the seasons of his life. (1) 1940’s- WWII hero; (2) 1950’s Korean War hero and the first man to fly supersonic across the United States; (3) 1960’s – Mercury astronaut and first American to orbit the earth; (4) 1970’s – He becomes a US Senator, after giving a “Gold Star Mothers” speech about the value of the American soldier; (5) 1980’s — He ran for president and continued his career as a Senator; (6) 1990’s – He became the oldest man in history of the universe to go into outer space. Upon his return he received another ticker-tape parade, making him the tenth, and latest, person to have received multiple ticker-tape parades in a lifetime.
  1. He died on the 75th Anniversary of His Decision to Lay down His Life for His Country: Glenn died on the 75th anniversary of the day that the world woke up to news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor the day before. It was around that time that he made his decision to enlist. His death on December 8th, 2016 is a fit conclusion to a life and legacy of service and accomplishment.