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Sunday, August 26, 2012

German-American Spotlight: Neil Armstrong

I had mentioned in a previous post that it was sad how little people know about Germans to the extent that they can't even name a German easily.  So, I wanted to help the world a little and provide a weekly series on German-Americans.  This is the first one on one of the greatest men to walk this planet and our moon: Neil Armstrong.

His heritage is similar to mine - German and Scottish (I've got some Irish/British too), but his life is far more impressive.  He was just shy of 39 when he became the first man to walk on the moon.  He was part of something that was not only critical for the United States at that time, but also the entire world.  He wasn't always an astronaut and worldwide hero though.

He began his life in Ohio, and his love for flying started at a young age.  He took flying lessons and earned his flight certificate before he could even drive.  He was an Eagle Scout and later became a scoutmaster (being involved in scouting my whole life makes that mean so much to me).  He was accepted into MIT, but chose to go closer to home to Purdue University.  I'm not sure how true it is, but supposedly his grades were not perfect, which is inspiring to see that perfect grades don't always determine future success.  During the same time in his life, he was in the Navy and became a Naval Aviator.  He was in the Korean war and only went down once.  He received the Air Medal and Korean Service medal before becoming a Lieutenant.  He continued college and earned his BS degree in aeronautical engineering.  He later earned his Masters.  While at Purdue, he showed his musical talent as part of the Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity and a baritone player in the marching band (something any band geek can appreciate).

He became an astronaut after being a test pilot.  He had an (obviously) impressive career as an astronaut, which everyone is well aware of.  Aside from his drive an intelligence, I think some of his most impressive traits were less well known: his modesty, attempts to stay out of the spotlight, and efforts to give to others.  He discovered that his autographs were worth a fortune and causing forgeries to be created, so he adhered to a no-autograph policy to prevent this.  He was involved in some lawsuits where his name, image, and voice were used without his consent.  Money he won through settlements or in court was donated to his alma mater (Purdue) or charity.

Armstrong was a truly inspiring man and a hero to many.  He's the perfect person to start of my German-American Spotlight series.
I would encourage everyone to read some of the myriad of articles being written about this man following his unfortunate death.  For now, I'll leave you with this audio clip of some of the most famous words ever spoken:
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"

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