USO Honors Senator John Glenn
By Scott Gruber
Special to American Forces Press Service
NEW YORK, Dec. 13, 1999 The United Services Organization presented its highest and most prestigious honor, the "Spirit of Hope" Award, to Senator John Glenn at the 1999 USO Holiday Gala, Dec. 10, aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City.
The award is presented to distinguished Americans whose patriotism and service to the troops reflects that of Bob Hope. In November 1997, Hope was designated the first honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces for his decades of entertaining troops, both in peacetime and in combat zones.
Glenn, a Marine veteran, has been a distinguished advocate of the men and women of the armed forces for decades, and has been a pioneer in American aviation and space programs.
Glenn entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in March 1942, and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1943. During World War II, he flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. During the Korean war, he flew 63 missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 311 and 27 missions as an exchange pilot with the Air Force.
For his service in World War II and Korea, he received numerous awards and commendations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross (on six occasions), the Air Medal with 18 Clusters, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the American Campaign Medal.
Following his service in Korea, Glenn won an assignment as a Marine test pilot, and set a transcontinental speed record in 1957, for the first supersonic flight from Los Angeles to New York. In 1959, Glenn was selected to be one of the seven astronauts of NASA's Project Mercury. On February 20, 1962, he made history as the first American to orbit the earth, completing three orbits in his 5-hour flight.
John Glenn retired from the Marine Corps as a colonel in 1965, becoming a business executive with Royal Crown Cola. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974, where he served as chairman of the Governmental Affairs committee. Glenn made history again as the first popularly elected senator from Ohio to win four consecutive terms.
In 1998, Glenn returned to space as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. During the nine-day mission, which orbited the earth 134 times, Glenn conducted research on space flight and the aging process.
Other recipients of the "Spirit of Hope" award include: Johnny Grant, the Honorary Mayor of Hollywood; the Country Music Association; South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond; Mary Sethness, a USO volunteer for over 56 years; Walter Cronkite and Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.
The USO has provided programs bringing "a touch of home" to our service men and women abroad for nearly 60 years. The USO is a congressionally-chartered, nonprofit organization, receiving no direct government funding. For more information on contributing to the USO, please call 1-800- 876-7469 or visit the Web site at www.uso.org/ .
(Editor's note: Gruber works for the USO)