38 years ago our family lived at 3814 Jennifer Street in a subdivision called Martin Park in Alexandria, Louisiana, and my Dad had been back from his one year tour of duty in Vietnam for eleven months. After flying 283 combat missions in an F-100 fighter jet his new responsibility while stationed at England AFB was training young South Vietnamese pilots how to fly the A-37 “Dragonfly.” I was enrolled at Horseshoe Drive Elementary School with my brother and sister. The base is now closed, but the school is still there.
On the evening of July 20, 1969, my family gathered in our living room around the one television we had, a huge walnut console with a black and white screen, to watch something that I will never forget and has, in my mind at least, never been transcended. Even though we were very young we were children of the space age, when astronauts were our nation’s bravest heroes and the Cold War meant staying ahead of the communists to protect our freedom. Like many boys who grew up in that era, I built model rockets representing every stage of the space program’s progress: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.
We listened to the static-filled radio transmissions and watched the blurry images on the screen as our parents patiently explained what an incredible event we were witnessing. I am sure that we didn’t appreciate it fully at the time. I doubt we really appreciate it as much as we should now. The Apollo 11 mission that landed the first humans on the moon and brought them safely home is a landmark event in my life. I highly recommend this Wikipedia article that includes many facts that I was not aware of.