Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Bad Ass and The Hero

To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it
Is not the way Man was meant to operate. 
- John Glenn

If somewhere in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, Joss Whedon, Christopher Nolan, or J.J. Abrams conjured up a character who did all that John Glenn did, skeptics and cynics would likely deride the character for his apparent lack of realism. And someone would undoubtedly criticize the casting decision.  Truth be told, what actor could convincingly play such a role?  

Fortunately for all of us, Hollywood did not need to conjure up a character like John Glenn.  His mother and father created him, all on their own, in Cambridge, Ohio, on July 18, 1921.  The life he lived, which ended a little less than halfway through its ninety-fifth year on December 8, 2016, was beyond remarkable.  

No less of an authority than Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, which was written about John Glenn and his fellow Mercury 7 astronauts, referred to him as, "the last true national hero America has ever had."  Irrespective of whether one agrees with Wolfe, it is impossible to argue against the rationale for his position.  Glenn, a United States Marine, served his country in World War II and, again, in the Korean War, as a combat pilot, during which service he flew one hundred and forty-nine missions.  Not a bad prelude for becoming, at age forty, the first American to orbit the Earth, and thereafter a four-term United States Senator from Ohio.  For good measure, in 1998 (almost four decades after his first trip), he returned to space as a member of the crew on the Space Shuttle Discovery.  

He was the dictionary definition of a "Bad Ass".  And, yet, he was so much more. 

John Glenn is survived by his two adult children and his wife, Annie Glenn, who is ninety-six years old.  John and Annie knew each other practically their entire lives, having grown up together in New Concord, Ohio, from time that they were little enough to share a playpen, which they apparently did on numerous occasions.  The two dated while in high school and in college, married on April 6, 1943, and remained married for the entirety of the rest of his life.  While he was the "all-American boy" as a teenager, Annie struggled with a crippling stutter, which was categorized as an 85% disability, because 85% of the time when she opened her mouth in an effort to speak, she could not manage to make the words come out. 

He, the man who did everything and more, never hesitated to say "Annie" when asked who he considered to be his greatest hero.  His adoration for his wife stems from her relentless, ceaseless pursuit of a cure to her disability, which she finally attained at age fifty-three, courtesy of a physician in Virginia.  I would commend to your attention this beautiful piece that Bob Greene originally wrote in 2012, and which appeared again on CNN's website following John Glenn's death, about an American Bad Ass and the hero who he called his wife.  It is extraordinary.  

As he was.  

As they were. 

As she is.      

Godspeed, John Glenn...  


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