Jim Burson blog; We Can All Be Heroes: The Coaching Connection; www.JimBurson.com

We can all be heroes.
Senator John H. Glenn, Jr. in 1998 as he prepared to return to space on the Discovery mission. © NASA

What is a true hero?

The true hero makes you feel like a hero. That’s the way we should spend our lives; trying to make ourselves heroes by making others heroes! I believe we can all be heroes. In fact, I insist that we all be heroes.

This past week has been a reminder of heroes and heroism and reflection about my life.

I am proud to be from Marysville High School and Muskingum University in Ohio. I swell with pride when the Ohio State Buckeyes fight song plays. This week my pride hit an all-time high as I witnessed the honoring of John and Annie Glenn on the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in a moving service held by Muskingum University: A Call to Service: A Remembrance.

To set the stage: John and Annie, both from New Concord, were Muskingum students in 1941 and were childhood sweethearts. Annie Castor’s senior organ recital was scheduled for December 7. While listening to his car radio on his way to the concert, John learned of the attack and that the United States was going to war. He knew he needed to leave, but waited until after the concert to talk to Annie. They agreed they would serve their country as best they could. As I listened to this story during the service I felt their love for each other and for their country.

The Muskingum service began with a video tribute to Annie; Out of Silence, written and delivered by the noted historian and author Muskingum Professor Emerita Dr. Lorle Porter. The video emphasized the sacrifices she made during the war, her determination to overcome her lifelong speech impediment of stammering, and the loyalty, love and pride she had for ‘her man’ John and her country. She had a difficult time, but her love and faith never wavered.

Jim Burson blog: We Can All Be Heroes: The Coaching Connection; www.JimBurson.com

Flag folding ceremony at Muskingum University in honor of heroes John and Annie Glenn.

My personal highlights of the ceremony included the reading of the names of the 30 New Concord and Muskingum soldiers killed in WWII, with a tearful, soul-searching tolling of a bell after each name.

Another high point was the flag folding ceremony, conducted by two members of the 911th Airlift Reserve Wing Honor Guard. In their precise and graceful motions they showed great reverence for what our flag stands for. It was very moving and it showed in the tears of all those around me.

I stood at the end of the ceremony, wondering about John and Annie and hoping he could rally once more. By now, you know that Senator Glenn died later that same day, December 8, 2016.

John and Annie represent so much of what it means to be a great Muskie (from Muskingum), a great family member, a great Ohioan, a great citizen of our United States and great role models as citizens of the world we live in.

I’ve always believed that New Concord and Muskingum are the center of the universe, because if you get your start here, you can go anywhere.”

– John Glenn

God bless you, John Glenn. You will serve as my role model the rest of my life. May you rest in peace, John. And may you find peace and love, Annie. I am so proud to call you both my friend.

Another true hero

Jim Burson blog; We Can All Be Heroes: The Coaching Connection; www.JimBurson.com

Frank Gandola, Pearl Harbor 1941.

The day before, on the Pearl Harbor anniversary, I received a phone call from Ken Gandola, who played on my first team nearly 50 years ago and who I’ve written about before. He reminded me that his dad had been in Pearl Harbor and that this year he would have turned 100. He added that for the first time ever, no survivors attended this year’s ceremony in Cleveland.

I have a great love for Ken and his parents, Frank and Mildred, and so much pride in how they chose to serve their country and lived their lives.

Like the Glenns, the Gandolas modeled the way we all should live our lives. Yes, I tear up with pride and love for those who gave so much so we might have the freedoms we now have.

Ken sent me the following note after our phone call. It expresses why I loved teaching and coaching; and why I continue to believe, even in these days of turmoil and strife, that we will not only survive but grow in love and pride together.

Just heard that the true All American has passed.

John Glenn was New Concord and Muskingum’s finest. He was a legend and great American.

At this time of sorrow and pride, to celebrate his life, I wanted to share three personal John Glenn stories.

At the time of his second flight into space, I stood in the Air and Space Museum in DC, along side Friendship 7 touching the sides of his first capsule as the shuttle was launched in 1998. The power of the moment will never be forgotten. The roar from the crowd at the museum will never be forgotten as we watched the launch. I could think of no finer place to be at that moment and to personally feel the Friendship capsule as the shuttle lifted off was incredible and a proud Muskie moment.

I also stood with him at a fund raiser here in DC at the Congressional Country Club. He had late business in the Senate so Annie spoke in his absence to those gathered, until his arrival. The Senator later joined the group. He was eager to chat that evening, staying late, enabling me to have some quality time with just three of us that stayed with the Senator until he left the gathering. I will never forget his response to one of my questions. When asked what he thought of the Russian cosmonaut program that had recently left one of their ranks in orbit due to the shortage of funds at the disposal of his nation, unable to fund the return their cosmonaut back to earth, Senator Glenn looked and me, smiled, and said, ‘Not our nation, not this country, never.’

It was also my honor to serve with the senator on the Muskingum College Board of Trustees Finance Committee, as the Treasurer of the Student Senate, representing the student body. Throughout the decades, I can’t tell you the number of times I cherished the telling of that experience as a proud graduate of Muskingum College.

The skies over New Concord were often searched as the Senator soared overhead. He was a class act, Muskingum’s finest ambassador, and one whose magnificent legend and many contributions will never be forgotten by his nation or in the city of New Concord, the foundation of his greatness. Today, our nation has lost a true hero and great American.”

I am blessed indeed!

Be a hero

The real head coach and I challenge you to fight for the things you believe in and love those who disagree with you! I am proud to be an American and a citizen of the world.


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Images (top to bottom): © NASA; © Muskingum University; © Ken Gandola