Video Above: Drone Fighter Jet vs. Manned Fighter Jet .. Who Wins?
By Miguel Alejandro Laborde, former NCO in the 160thSOAR (A)
As America once again angles for the moon, pushing top-flight engineers, aviators, astronauts, life support experts, and average Americans to dream again, there is value in looking back – as we look ahead. There is also value in solidifying these memories – lest we forget.
The last American Space Shuttle launched ten years ago, the last American walked on the moon 49 years ago (Gene Cernan), and the first two Americans ever to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, did so almost 52 years ago. Yet how easily we forget.
Today, we tend to venerate handheld computers, political leaders, often passing fads, too infrequently what matters most – human will, grit, courage, tenacity, and patriotism (read: love of high ideals), and the men and women who did things that match those qualities.
Looking back our history is studded with genuine heroes, real and lasting heroes, some of whom we recall – presidents, generals, daring military, medical, and civil leaders – and many of whom we could remember more vividly if their stories were presented prominently to us more often.
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins – the three who manned Apollo 11 – were all decorated military aviators. Armstrong and Aldrin, when they went to the moon’s surface, had to be ready for anything. They were, and they were calm. They almost had to abort on the way down, and almost did not get off the surface, due to a snapped circuit breaker on the ascent engine.
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Yet their example precedes us, informs us, and should inspire us. We should think on it when dreaming, when daring, when flying, when willingly offering our best to the country. And yet what have we that solidifies their mission, memories, and impact on all we do – daring, science, engineering, military prowess, simple courage, basic pioneering, and a big reach upward and outward?
How best might we remember – and remind generations ahead to remember? One way is to write about what they did – and those who manned other Apollo missions. One way is to focus academic institutions on their missions, achievements, and the can-do that made their effort so epic – Armstrong and Aldrin were engineers. Aldrin went to MIT, and was a PhD in astronautical engineering. Many other Apollo astronauts had advance degrees.
Finally, one way is to place solid reminders in public view. That is one reason logic should be pointing us less to taking down statues, un-naming buildings, and undoing our past, and more toward putting up statues, re-naming. and freshly naming institutions, celebrating our Nation’s best and brightest.
Thinking creatively, positively, and patriotically, why not advance the best rather than the reverse. Why not statues of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in Congress’ Statuary Hall, why not name educational, much-travelled, and infrastructure-focused institutions – like public universities, highways, and airports for real and unmitigated national leaders, those of courage and impact – like the three Apollo 11 crew members – than to forget?
Some of these things have been talked about but remain undone. NASA has an Armstrong facility, Aldrin has schools named for him, and Collins is revered where he started. But why not a broader effort to remember America’s greatness – naming a north-south federal highway for Armstrong, Newark Airport for Aldrin, a public university for Collins?
The short point is this: A major difference exists between celebrity and genuine achievement, between no-risk populism and high-risk pioneering to the moon. We are at our best when we recall we are capable of the best. The Apollo 11 crew reminds us. We must never forget.
Miguel Alejandro Laborde was a former NCO in the 160thSOAR (A). He is of Latino descent, learned to speak English at 11 years of age, and served alongside some of the most elite American operators. He is also a pioneer in ISR, and a general aviation expert called on often to develop solutions otherwise thought impossible. He is a self-avowed patriot who loves America and believes in her greatness and opportunity.