Legendary Marine Corps veteran, astronaut and former Democratic Sen. John Herschel Glenn Jr. passed away Dec. 8 at the old age of 95.
Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio, at the start of the Roaring Twenties in 1921. He is most widely celebrated for being the first American to orbit the Earth, in addition to his incredible tenacity and combat feats in the air. He was, remarkably, the fifth person to enter space in 1962 and later the oldest person to travel through space at the age of 77 in 1998.
After attending New Concord high school in Ohio, where he met future wife Anna Margaret Castor, he went on to Muskingum College. There, he studied engineering, but didn’t immediately complete his degree.
And then Pearl Harbor happened Dec. 7, 1941.
He immediately joined up with the Naval Aviation Academy Program and later transferred to the Marine Corps, flying a total of 59 missions in the Pacific for the Marine Corps during World War II.
Instead of dropping out of the service after the war, Glenn stayed in for the Korean War and flew 63 combat missions in the F9F Panther jet as part of Marine Fighter Squadron 311. Twice, he flew back to base with his aircraft shot 250 times.
Glenn took out three Russian-designed MiG fighter jets in the last nine days of combat. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross six times, among other awards.
Fast-forward to 1959.
While still an officer in the Marine Corps, NASA picked Glenn to be an astronaut for Project Mercury — right in the middle of the space race with the Soviet Union. While Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin beat the U.S. into space April 12, 1961, Glenn soon after set the record for the first American to circle the globe while in space. He became a national hero overnight, and later ended up as a personal friend of the Kennedys.
In 1965, after encouragement from Robert F. Kennedy, Glenn decided to run for the Senate, though in his first attempt at the Ohio Democratic primary he suffered an accident and was forced to withdraw. Not to be deterred, Glenn tried again, only to be beaten in the 1970 primaries.
On his third attempt, Glenn finally triumphed over Republican Ralph J. Perk. During his career in the Senate, he pioneered the Nonproliferation Act in 1978 on weapons control. Glenn was a member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. He retired from the Senate in 1999.
President Barack Obama awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
He is survived by his wife, Annie Glenn, two children and two grandchildren.
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