Someone once tried telling John Glenn he had never done honest work.
The scene was a candidates forum at the Cleveland City Club in Ohio during the 1974 Democratic Senate primary. Glenn was challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Howard Metzenbaum for the party’s nomination to run against Republican Ralph Perk. Glenn and Metzenbaum were bitter rivals. The pair went in against one another four years earlier, both losing out to Republican Robert Taft. While the contest ended at the ballot-box, vitriol and a long-standing vendetta survived.
Metzenbaum, sensing war-fatigue among an electorate weary of burying American boys in the swamps of Vietnam, thought he could get away with diminishing John Glenn’s war record. Col. Glenn clocked 9,000 flight hours between World War II and Korea before entering the astronaut program. (RELATED: Legendary Marine, Astronaut John Glenn Dies)
Metzenbaum would rue the day.
I spent 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I lived through two wars. I flew 149 missions. I was in the space program. It wasn’t my checkbook, it was my life that was on the line.
You go with me as I did out to a veterans’ hospital and look those men with their mangled bodies in the eye and tell them that they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and you tell her that her son did not hold a job. You go to Arlington National Cemetery — where I have more friends than I’d like to remember — and you think about this nation, and you tell me that those people didn’t have a job.
I tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men, some men, who held a job. And they required a dedication to purpose, a love of country, and a dedication to duty that was more important than life itself.
And their self-sacrifice is what has made this nation possible.
I have held a job, Howard.
Godspeed, John Glenn.
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