Letter to the editor: Celebrating the legacy of John Glenn

And No One Knew their Names

“…Then they built a small plane, the X-1, to try and break the sound barrier.  And men came to the high desert of California to ride it.  They were called test pilots. And no one knew their names.”

These words, delivered by a gravelly-voiced Chuck Yeager, narrated the opening scene in The Right Stuff, a classic movie about test pilots and America’s first astronauts. 

This amazing production captivated me as a young man and introduced me to several heroic men; one of whom was John Glenn.  John Glenn, who passed away in December, served the United States as a combat pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, a test pilot, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, and eventually as a U.S. senator.  This remarkable man exhibited sacrificial courage and selflessness throughout his life. 

I’m grateful that many Americans knew the name of John Glenn when he passed on December 8th, and recognized his achievements.  But Yeager’s words in The Right Stuff hauntingly remind us that countless aviation and space pioneers accepted tremendous risks to serve their country during the Cold War.  Some lost their lives.  Most of us never knew their names.

Of course, this quality of anonymous, faithful service also describes today’s military personnel and veterans.  These brave men and women voluntarily accepted risks and confronted pressures that few fully appreciate. 

Many deployed abroad.  Some did not return.  Most never knew their names.

That was one reason I was so touched when I attended this weekend’s Wreaths Across America event at Floral Haven Cemetery in Broken Arrow.  In this moving ceremony, wreaths were lovingly laid on the graves of our veterans.  Many participated, including members of the Civil Air Patrol, Boy Scouts, Sons of the American Revolution, and Daughters of the American Revolution.

It was heartwarming to see so many members of our community brave frosty conditions to honor our veterans. 

But one aspect of the ceremony stood out to me as particularly poignant.  With the placement of each wreath, the individual setting it intentionally—and reverently—spoke aloud the name appearing on the grave.  We know their names.

This was my first time attending the Wreaths Across America event, but God willing, it will not be my last.

Please consider attending yourself next year.  And as we properly celebrate John Glenn’s legacy this December and prepare for Christmas, let us also remember our troops deployed around the globe, as well as their families. 

Let us strive to consistently know their names.