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[i]Imagine being around the likes of explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Magellan, or Cortez. I have. Forty-years ago today, if you are old enough, you know exactly where you were: in front of a TV watching the greatest explorer of all time, Neil Armstrong, step on the moon.
I was blessed to grow up around such men: Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and John Glenn. I was with Jim Lovell on my first deer hunt. I had Bill Anders teach me how to water ski. Al Shepard attended my officer commissioning party. Charlie Duke is a close family friend and Walt Cunningham was my guest speaker at our Marine Corps Birthday Ball Celebration.
I don't know what it was like when Christopher Columbus set sail ; but, I know what it was like on July 16, 1969, when Apollo 11 lifted-off. I was standing three-miles away in the Astronaut viewing area. I was eleven years old. The ground shook; a loud popping sound reverberated through my body; and I stood in awe as a Saturn V rocket, the height of a 36-story building, slowly began to lift from the ground, and accelerate behind a massive flame of burnt fuel to power into space.
Fortunately, two years later, on January 31, 1971, I watched as my own father, Stuart Roosa, launched to the moon on Apollo 14 as the Command Module Pilot. I stood in the same viewing area and shouted "God Speed" as he lifted off.
Forty years later, I find myself sitting in Baghdad. I look back over the years and think about what a special time that was for America. Today, those Apollo Astronauts are in their 70s and 80s. In those days of the "Right Stuff," they were men dedicated to the space program. These men were smart, daring, talented, gifted, and born at the right time and in the right place. The older I get, the more I realize with amazement the magnitude of their achievement.
Though the media is focused on the twelve men who walked on the moon, I would like to remind everyone that there are only six men in history who have soloed around it. My father was one of this small group.
I am reminded of an exhortation my father used to close his speeches: "Go out tonight and look at the moon; there are six American flags flying on its surface. We are the only nation that can make that claim." I greatly miss my father; he died in 1994.
In years to come, the rest of these great men will pass from this earth. It was an honor to know them. The world has been blessed by their endeavors.[/i]
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