Flags are at half-staff on April 6 to honor one of the world’s pioneering astronauts, John Glenn. The New York Times wrote that Glenn made a historic flight around the earth on February 20, 1962, the day that “America stood still” and held its collective breath waiting for the flag-waving moment when John completed the first ever orbit of the world by an American astronaut. Glenn’s death in December, 2016, marked the end of an era, and Americans everywhere gladly join President Trump in lowering their own flags to half-staff as they mark John Glenn’s burial.
When Glenn climbed into the Mercury Friendship 7, he didn’t know for sure that, five hours later, he would successfully complete the mission and become a hero to generations of Americans. After a safe landing, the flags came out and there were celebrations from the White House to Broadway’s famous Canyon of Heroes parade route. John Glenn was the Buck Rogers of his time.
John Glenn’s proper funeral was held in December in his home state of Ohio, but Glenn’s funeral burial at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6 allowed close family and friends to remember his many contributions to the nation. Before heading out to the stars, Glenn was a Marine fighter pilot who flew 149 missions in World War II and Korea. He was chosen for the space mission, in part, because of his extraordinary skill and expertise as a pilot, skills he showcased when he once “broke the transcontinental airspeed record.” After the Mercury mission, Glenn served for 24 years in the U.S. Senate, and founded the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.
“He became a symbol of can-do spirit, lifting morale and restoring self-confidence at a time when many felt that the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union.”
For most people, just going into space once and accomplishing the stuff of science fiction would be enough excitement to last the rest of their lives. But Glenn wasn’t finished.
We buried a true American hero today, God Speed John Glenn— Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) April 6, 2017
That can-do spirit was eager to explore again before Glenn’s death. At 77-years-old, John Glenn defied death and broke another record, this time for becoming the oldest person in space. In 1998, Glenn joined the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, and again returned to a parade along the Canyon of Heroes.
Unlike the 1950s and ’60s, when ticker tape parades drew hundreds of thousands to watch heroes of all kinds pass through on their way to city hall, in the 1990s only “baseball and hockey players have been so honored.” John Glenn was one of only a handful of people to have two parades in their honor, joining aviator Amelia Earhart, and general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower in that distinction.
Glenn was a people’s hero, who always wanted to be approachable and real for his many fans. When he was asked to address a ballroom full of 2,000 guests eager to say they’d heard John Glenn speak, he spoke on behalf of the entire Discovery crew with words direct from his own heart.
“We truly feel we are representing all of you. And we hope that in the future, we can represent you in ever more ambitious endeavors.”
John Glenn’s funeral and burial ceremony on April 6 was planned to give Glenn’s family a rare moment of privacy with their beloved hero, on a day that he’d celebrated for almost 74 years with his “glowing” wife, Annie Glenn. CTV News wrote that April 6 was the Glenn’s wedding anniversary, and Annie Glenn wanted to send John on his way on what would have been their 74th anniversary.
Although portions of Glenn’s funeral and burial were live-streamed, most of the ceremony was completely private.
[Featured Image by Jay LaPrete/AP Images]