DoD Honors Senator-Astronaut Glenn
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT MYER, Va., Dec. 7, 1998 The Department of Defense honored an American hero Dec. 4 when Sen. John H. Glenn Jr. received the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
Defense Secretary William Cohen and Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also presented the award to Glenn's wife, Anna, for her service as a voice for children and the disabled. The military review was at Conmy Hall here.
Cohen praised Glenn for his life of service to America. He noted Marine Corps Lt. John Glenn flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II. As a major, he flew combat again during the Korean War, shooting down three MiG-15s.
"But it was the space odyssey of Lt. Col. Glenn that makes this man with the brave heart a hero for all ages," Cohen said. "Friendship 7 and his orbital flight lifted more than a space capsule. It truly lifted the spirits and hopes of the entire nation."
Glenn retired from the Marine Corps in 1965 and was elected to the Senate in 1974. He retires from the Senate at the end of this session. On Oct. 19, Glenn, now 77, went back to space as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Glenn is one of the Senate's leading experts on space, military, technical and scientific matters. He also has been a voice for the men and women of the armed forces.
During remarks, Glenn said he is concerned for the future of America's legendary "can-do" spirit.
"[It is] a spirit that took us from one coast to the other," he said. "It was a spirit that conquered all foreign threats and made, literally, our borders and our world a safer place. [It was] a spirit that overcame the Depression; a spirit that has conducted more inquiry into the unknown, into research, in pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. It was a spirit that has taken us to the skies and even beyond: into space."
That spirit, he said, is endangered by cynicism. "If we let cynicism toward our country, its democracy, its government rule, it will be suicidal," he said. "If more and more people tune out instead of getting involved, it will eventually be the end of this great experiment in democracy."
Glenn said he will fight these trends after he retires. "I hope we all do, because our country is too important to leave to the carpers and the naysayers among us," he said.
He turned to the military in the audience and told them they are engaged in the ultimate form of public service. "You give us all hope that people do care about this country and they do want to see this experiment in democracy, this freedom and liberty, continue," Glenn said. "To me, you're an inspiration to all Americans."