On July 20, 1969, as an 11-year-old, I sat staring in wonder at the black and white TV image of the ladder of the Lunar Module, Eagle. Suddenly the Commander of Apollo 11 worked his way down to the dusty face of the moon. Though we could not see his foot in the image at 10:56 p.m. (EDT) Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface sharing those famous words, “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.”
Tranquility Base became the focus of the world as two Americans spent time on a body in the galaxy other than Earth. Who can forget the sense of pride when these explorers unfurled “Old Glory”? Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin worked outside the Eagle for a little over two and half hours. On July 24, they returned to Earth and one of the greatest celebrations of American Exceptionalism took place.
The irony of Neil Armstrong is that after his service to his country as a combat pilot during the Korean War (78 Combat Missions), Test Pilot and Astronaut he didn’t “cash in” his fame. He led a life of duty, honor and country. Something he learned in his youth when he became an Eagle Scout and then serving in the United States Navy. Ideals he understood nearly losing his life on one mission in Korea, during test flights and Gemini 8. Astronauts were often called “spam in a can” in those days so it took great bravery, especially after Grissom, White & Chaffee were killed in Apollo 1. Neil had the “right stuff” becoming an explorer of the stars. 200 years from now one person, Neil Armstrong, will be remembered from our era when others will barely be a footnote. Ironically he never sought that fame, he only wanted to serve, learn and explore.
Forty-three years later as this great American travels into the hands of God we have much to learn from him. We don’t need to apologize for the American dream. In the United States if you work and study hard enough a young boy from Ohio can walk on the moon. After that feat is accomplished a life can be lived with Duty to God, Country and Others kept to the forefront instead of the crass “look at me” selfishness we see in our society today. Those time honored values that Neil Armstrong learned in Scouting, Education, Military Service and the Space Program helped him to “slip the surly bonds of earth…where never lark, or eagle flew… trod(ding) the high untrespassed sanctity of space.”
Today we’re faced with division in our country. Timeless values are cast aside for immorality. Our space program has been put on the scrapheap. America has no vision and flounders in debt. Neil Armstrong should remind us all that the United States can do great things if we will just work together, live with honor and look to the stars, dreaming impossible dreams as we place our trust in God.
Godspeed, Neil Armstrong.