What a great country we are

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I’ve lived a blessed life in these United States. There has been much water that has gone under the bridge and I remember many events that have happened in my lifetime.

Some have left indelible marks. I remember where I was and what I was doing when a president was assassinated and the same goes for when our enemies flew two planes into the Twin Towers. Many of our national moments, like Pearl Harbor or D-Day, are centered on difficult moments.

Over the weekend, our nation celebrated a 50th anniversary of one of those memorable events and it was positive. I also admit that I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when it happened in real time.

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The date was July 20, 1969, and the precise time was 10:56 PM. An Ohioan, born in the funny sounding town of Wapakoneta, descended a ladder and placed his feet on the surface of the moon. The hero’s name was Neil Armstrong and, while we overuse the word hero, he was a real hero!

His words most of us still remember, “That’s one small step for man, [and] one giant leap for mankind.” I wonder if Neil Armstrong had thought of those words beforehand or were they simply extemporaneous.

As with so many things that happen, I may have taken the moon landing for granted, but I would be wrong to do so. It might be the most amazing event of my lifetime. Neil Armstrong may have gotten the glory as the first man to step on the surface of the moon, but he was just one of over 400,000 men and women who were responsible.

President John Kennedy had challenged this nation in 1961 to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade. We had “dabbled” in space exploration up until then and I may be underestimating our efforts. But, there is no doubt that our greatest foe of the day, the Soviet Union, seemed to be ahead of us in this venture.

A fire was lit, though, by Kennedy. The gauntlet was thrown down. The United States of America went to work in a way that has not been seen since then. The goal of getting to the moon, and actually stepping upon it, was a high bar to set. Yet, before the time had expired, that is the end of the decade, the USA could say with pride, “Mission Accomplished.”

As I saw Old Glory planted in the Sea of Tranquility, where the eagle had landed, my heart swelled with pride. I was glad that it was the red, white, and blue. And to think that some people today don’t take pride in that symbol of our nation. How far away 1969 seems.

I also asked myself this question. Could we find such a united purpose these days? The challenges we face might not be as dramatic as setting a foot upon the surface of the moon, but they are just a daunting and important. Back in 1961, we set our faces like flint to accomplish a goal that was almost unbelievable and we did it.

It’s ironic. We are a thousand times or more ahead of 1969 in technology. Our cell phones probably have more computer power than the entire Johnson Space Center had then. We have trillions more in financial resources now. We should be much smarter, but I don’t know about that.

The irony is that what we did in 1969 might be impossible today, but last Saturday, as I watched our nation reach the moon, I thought, “What a great country we are!”