On John Glenn

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Many stories have been published about John Glenn since the news of his recent death. Then again, after 95 years of life, 73 years as a husband to his childhood sweetheart, 23 years as a military pilot and astronaut, 24 years as a US Senator, and 18 years of retirement – there is much to tell outside of his accomplishments and high awards.

Those of in Ohio probably get more about the man and his life because Ohio is his state – the state where he was born and raised – the state whom he served – the state he has always called home – the state where he was born and died. In those articles, what touched me the most were the adjectives describing John Glenn: Kind, gentle, patriotic, genuine, patient, humble, charming, decent, respectful, smart, brave, gracious, determined, heroic, dedicated, simple, likable, and quiet.

The day after his death, I greatly enjoyed this story in the Cincinnati Enquirer focusing on his life. On the political side, he didn’t get the Democratic party nomination in his first attempt to be a senator representing Ohio. After all, the incumbent criticized him because he had “paid his dues” in politics.

He ran again six years later for the same seat as the incumbent was retiring. The road in the primary wasn’t easy because his opponent (Howard Metzenbaum) ran the incumbent’s campaign the last time and had the support of the state Democratic party and the unions. Glenn eventually dropped out, but Metzenbaum lost in the general election.

Ohio’s other senate seat came open in 1974,  so Ohio’s governor appointed Metzenbaum to complete the term. Because the seat was up for vote in the fall, Glenn challenged Metzenbaum.

During the campaign, Metzenbaum told Ohioans they shouldn’t vote for Glenn because he “never worked for a living.” Glenn response to that criticism during their debate was strong, which may be a reason why he won the primary – and eventually the Senate seat – so it is worth reading below.

I served 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. I served through two wars. I flew 149 missions. My plane was hit by antiaircraft fire on 12 different occasions. I was in the space program. It wasn’t my checkbook; it was my life on the line. It was not a nine to five job where I took time off to take the daily cash receipts to the bank.

I ask you to go with me. … as I went the other day to a Veterans hospital and look at those men with their mangled bodies in the eye and tell them they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to the space program and go as I have gone to the widows and orphans of Ed White, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee and you look those kids in the eye and tell them that their dad didn’t hold a job.

You go with me on Memorial Day, coming up, and you stand in Arlington National Cemetery, where I have more friends than I’d like to remember and you watch those waving flags. You stand there, and you think about this nation, and you tell me that those people didn’t have a job, I’ll tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men – some men – who held a job. And they required a dedication to purpose, a love of country and a dedication to duty that was more important than life itself. And their self-sacrifice is what made this country possible. I have held a job, Howard. What about you?

Godspeed, John Glenn … and thank you for your service and for being a role model.

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21 thoughts on “On John Glenn

  1. Appreciate his “other career” up there. He was part of out community here, too. Those swaggering hot shot test pilots that flew into history. (I will resist getting rabid about those who say he didn’t pay his dues or worked. Astronauts seem to have a better view of life and humanity than just about any politician – and the courage to do what needs to be done.)
    As you and Ray say – Glenn was a real hero, not the everyday modern ones.
    May he inspire new stars.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen,
      You don’t have to get rabid over the “never working” view because he took care of it himself! 🙂 … If we have politicians like him today, they are rare and definitely overshadowed by the partisan hooligans.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post is a wonderful tribute to John Glenn, who was an American hero in all the best of ways, including his lifetime of love and loyalty to his wife Annie. Thanks especially for including John Glenn’s response to Howard Metzenbaum. It will stick in my mind for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perfect. I marvel at those who scoff at the contributions (or the perceived lack thereof) of people whose jobs they couldn’t possibly understand. Whether I was born with it or was taught it, I practice empathy to the best of my ability (and often fall short). John Glenn had the kind of courage most of us only ever dream of having. And he had the humility to wear his courage honorably.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As Ray said above…I hate our use of the word “hero” these days. Watered down and sprayed everywhere. John Glenn’s passing may have officially meant the death of what the word truly means. Let what hero truly means also pass on with his passing. Great tribute Frank.


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