Neil Armstrong died this past weekend and with his passing another hero leaves his legacy. If you were alive on July 20, 1969 you know exactly where you were when Apollo 11 landed and where you were when we watched the first walk on the Moon on television sets. My grandmother sat beside me in our den and shared her remembrances of the day she heard that the Wright Brother's had flown at Kitty Hawk. She marveled at the extraordinary abilities of Americans that during her lifetime she could experience the first flight of man in a plane to the first man on the Moon. What a country she reminded us.
This Monday we celebrate Labor Day and the contributions of those who labor in this country as well as the contributions of the Labor Movement through the Unions. Unions get a bad rap when there are complaints about excessive wages or benefits. We hear about thugs making life miserable for those who don't agree with the Union bosses and we all remember the shady dealings of folks who cheated and raided Union pension funds for their own benefit.
Unions have done a great deal of good for us as well. We need to remember the creation of the 40 hour work week, the concept of job related benefits, worker's compensation insurance and a process to help protect workers from unfair labor practices.
The death of Neil Armstrong coming so very close to the holiday that honors America's workers allows us time to see what we as a people can do when we are united in our endeavors.
President Kennedy had boldly announced his plan to have America land a man on the Moon and return him home safely to the Earth by the end of the decade. Bold to say the least; but the challenge was set, and NASA was told to get the job done.
Thousands of folks were hired to perform tasks and actually were hired to create the tasks and then perform them. A trip into outer space had not happened. The Russians beat the Americans into space first and then we sent Alan Shepard on our first sub-orbital ride with Glenn following with his three orbit flight.
American's began to develop through hard work and dedication each part and component to send satellites, then Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules into space in preparation for the trip to the Moon.
American laborers both in union and non-union shops developing millions of gadgets, wires, screens, tools and a host of other items all at lowest bid in one giant effort to fulfill the Kennedy challenge. Americans began to take the lead in the space race and we never looked back.
Disasters hit with fires on launch pads, deaths, and rockets blowing up. We saw problems with heat shields and retro rockets but what we always saw was the American spirit that was "Can Do."
Test pilots were trained into being Astronauts and they became larger than life heroes, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Deke Slayton became household names. Chuck Yeager had gone before them and while never becoming an "official astronaut" he was no less a hero to us.
As the Lunar landing was getting closer with each passing day it fell to a young man from Ohio to be the commander. Neil Armstrong-Eagle Scout, pilot at age 16, military man was given the job. I can't imagine the enormous pressure such a role places on the shoulders of a man.
Armstrong and his crew of Aldrin and Collins riding a rocket going as fast as a bullet that July day heading toward a rendezvous with destiny or a crash landing on the Lunar surface.
They carried the hopes and dreams of Americans and many around the world but they were riding on American-made products built by American laborers and the rest of the world could only marvel at the melding of American technology and American know-how and American craftsmanship.
That "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" came as a result of bravery shown by Armstrong and all the other Astronauts combined with the efforts of millions of Americans making each component great enough to stand the challenges of space.
Neil Armstrong's greatest feat and the one which will have his name in the history books forever came as a result of the American workforce.
Rest in Peace Neil Armstrong -- Mission Accomplished.
Happy Labor Day America.