National Treasure

FLYING HIGH is nothing new for John Glenn who was the first American to orbit the Earth and oldest person to travel into space, but he reached high heights figuratively Tuesday when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Many Eastern Ohioans attended a parade to honor Glenn and his wife, Annie, in New Concord after the 1962 orbit.

Others remember the Glenns, who despite their fame seem to be very down-to-earth people, when he was on the campaign trail in this area. He didn’t limit his achievements to space as he eventually served in the U.S. Senate for 24 years, longer than any other Ohioan.

BEFORE being selected as the oldest of the seven astronauts selected in 1959 for the Mercury project’s spaceflight training, Glenn flew 59 missions as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II and 90 during the Korean War.

Glenn’s name resounds through the years in one of the most memorial quotations in spaceflight. Just before the Mercury-Atlas rocket ignited in 1962, astronaut Scott Carpenter said, “Godspeed John Glenn.”

Carpenter, who is the only other surviving Mercury astronaut, has high regard for Glenn and recently was quoted as noting that Glenn, who will be 91 in July, is “a very good man. He’s a grown-up man, but he’s still a very good Boy Scout.”

In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to go into space when he was 77.

PRESIDENT Barack Obama said Glenn “reminds everybody don’t tell him he’s lived a historic life,” because he doesn’t want it put in past tense, “because he still has a lot of stuff going on.”

That was obvious as Glenn spoke at several celebrations earlier this year, marking the 50th anniversary of his orbit.

He donated his space memorabilia to The Ohio State University and also in the 1990s announced the creation of what is now the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. NASA also named a research center for him.

Glenn’s honors are numerous, and it’s easy to see why he’s regarded as one of the nation’s greatest treasures.