Neil Armstrong’s out-of-this-world feat reminds me of how one can get caught up in the smallness of the personal world

First Man on the Moon dies at 82:

 

With the word of the death of American Astronaut and first man to step foot on the moon Neil Armstrong, I realize how 43 years ago I had let the insignificant take over in my life.

Stuck in my own predominantly self-imposed exile from the world or from world events I missed out on most of the excitement of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. And that’s strange, because I was one who was cognizant of worldly matters from an early age.

While much of the world looked on or listened closely on that day in July of 1969 to the news coverage of the moon landing, I was out on a U.S. Army field exercise in Germany worrying about how I could communicate with my fellow tank crewmen.

I mean, think of all the super technology it took to put Armstrong up there and here I was on planet earth and I the driver of the 52-ton tank and could neither hear nor speak directly to the other crew members because the coiled cord, called a spaghetti cord, that carried the received and transmitted voices in my tanker’s helmet, was malfunctioning. The others had to yell at me or maybe nudge me with their feet to relay directions from the tank commander, who had the only clear field of vision. I was really bummed and thought this inconvenience was ruining my whole day.

(Ironically my good friend and tank gunner, whose name I will omit to protect his innocence of ever being associated with me, was an expert on things electronic and at one point was given the job of repairing those helmets when the radio and intercom function went haywire. But we had no extra spaghetti cords with us.)

If you have read this far, by this time you are thinking: here a great man has died and I am writing about something quite trivial. Well that is the point of this little essay:

I often am amazed at how some people seem nearly oblivious to the world around them and only concentrate on their own doings.

But I guess that is how I was back then. I had joined the Army and had realized in maybe the first five minutes that it was probably not for me. I mean everyone was so nice and polite before I signed the final papers and took the oath — things turned ugly after that.

So much yelling.

However, I was fortunate in being eventually sent to Germany where peace reigned, rather than Vietnam were the bullets were flying and soldiers were not just playing army.

(And I have thought about this the rest of my life.)

I was not completely oblivious to it all back on that day. I did hear the news and thought some about it. I was and am proud to be an American.

While with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we know now that our cause in Vietnam was dubious at best and just flat-out wrong at worst, back then we were America who had fairly recently saved the world from tyranny and now we had put a man on the moon. We could do anything.

And while I am not a big government fan per se, I have to realize we did all this through, well, big government. The greatest power in the world by definition is going to have a big government.

Today we still hang on as the predominant world power, but we are in danger of losing that mantle by getting caught up in the self possessiveness of our own lives and listening to the siren call of those who would manipulate things to satisfy their own greed, implying that we each would benefit just as they would (probably not).

Sure one has to look out for one’s self and one’s family first, but there is a world out there, and we did not obtain the freedom and relative security we have in an often violent world by always splintering in different directions.

It’s united we stand, divided we fall.

Well, this piece probably should have been about the late and great Neil Armstrong, but I know so little about him. Apparently, from what I read about him now, he was a fairly modest and private man. I think maybe he did not have to extol his own virtues, rather they spoke for themselves.

And maybe that is how the United States of America should be. Just be great and good and let that fact speak for itself.

So, thank you Mr. Armstrong. You had the right stuff (credit author Tom Wolfe for that phrase in this context).

 P.s.

So was the landing on July 20 or 21? I have read both dates in the coverage. And I guess it depends upon where you were in the world, and what day was it on the moon? I mean what is moon time? Outer space and the galaxies and what was there before it all began is too much for me to comprehend.

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