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John Glenn

John Glenn: Marine recruiting is based on two things. It's been number one, do you want to serve your country, and number two, do you think you're good enough to join the best outfit. It attracts a different kind of person when you put that kind of standard out as the main attraction in recruiting. I was in the middle of my junior year in college, and Pearl Harbor occurred. And I had just received my private pilot's license earlier that year, and so I knew where my duties lay, and that was to go into the military, at that time. And then I felt that the Marines were being tossed into some of the toughest combat in the early World War II, and they were equipping themselves well, and if I wanted to be part of the best, I'd better apply. All Marine pilots go through naval aviation training. And at that time, in the middle of World War II, about halfway through advanced training, you could apply if you wanted to to get your commission in the Marine Corps. And that's what I did. After I was out of flight training, we trained for--I was first sent to Cherry Point on the East Coast, but then to the West Coast, and joined a squadron there. And we were training for the invasion of Japan. And then went back out in the Korean War. And that's where we worked as the Marine Air Ground Team. And it was a very close-knit organization. There was always a special feeling of Marines supporting Marines on the ground. And that was very exacting. When I came back from the Korean War, I applied for test pilot training and got it. So I was at Petuxent River Maryland Naval Air Test Center doing test work on some of the new Marine and Navy aircraft. And just as I was about to be reassigned from my time period doing test work was when the space program was starting. The word astronaut was something new. We didn't even know there was such a word. There hadn't been that kind of word when I was a kid or growing up in Ohio. But the space program was just starting, and when they put out their criteria for the type people they wanted, why, I seemed to have all of the qualifications that they were looking for. My combat experience in the Marine Corps in the Pacific was a factor because they wanted people who had worked under stress and duress and had come through okay. And it finally resulted in seven of us being selected. Out of that seven, there were three Air Force and three Navy and one Marine. So I represented the Corps in that first group. In this new area of space that we were going into, I used that same approach I'd had in the Marine Corps in learning about every single system you could learn about on the spacecraft, and where you thought there was some problem with it, suggest a change to that particular system, just as I had done on aircraft in test flying. I was very proud to be able to participate in some of those early days and made the first orbital flight for this country. Let's just say that my Marine background and training and all gave me a dedication to trying this new area that we knew so little about. I wasn't behind anybody else in dedication, I know that. That kind of a dedication is something that's just expected in the Marine Corps, and it becomes a way of life. And I think that's something that I had, maybe was an edge going into this. In the space program, I was still in the Marine Corps, I was in the Marine Corps, but assigned to NASA for space flight. So the same kind of dedication you have to things in the Marine Corps, whether it's cooperative work in flying in a squadron, or supporting a ground or whatever you do there as part of a team, we were transferring that kind of–I was transferring that kind of background I'd had into the astronaut program. And I think it fit very, very well. I thought one of the greatest things you could ever do would be to run for public office. I never thought I'd ever be able to do that myself, but as it turned out, when I was leaving NASA, I decided that maybe that was something that I could do. Well, I did make it then, was elected, and then served 24 years in the Senate. I was on the Armed Services Committee, and worked closely with people in the Marine Corps, as well as the other services, of course, to see that we maintained the security, the forces that we needed. You're really required in the Senate to bring to bear your background, your experiences in dealing with everything that makes this country go. I guess it required some of that Marine Corps induced drive to stick with some of those objectives and bring them through. But I'm proud of that service. The Marine Corps was there at the beginning of this country, and has been there every time troops were needed, every time military force was needed, and provides that with the only organization with our country that has all the elements of combat in one unit. And it was formed to protect this country and that's what Marines are proud of. It's a proud heritage that every Marine today wants to continue. Marine Corps tradition is something very special among military services, and it's very, very real. There's no military service that has a longer, illustrious combat record in representing this country and standing up for what this country is than the Marine Corps. First to Fight is not just a slogan, it's something that the Marine Corps is the most ready organization, normally, than any other service. In fact, I think the Marine Corps is going to be more needed in the future even that it has been in the past, important as that role has been. Well, if anybody ever refers to themselves as an ex-Marine, I always correct them, and so do most other Marines, because once you've been through Marine training and been part of the Marine experience, you know that it affects your life. And you know what the other people you meet that have been in the Marine Corps, you know what they've been through, you know what kind of training they've been through, and you know how they have shared some of these values of dedication to a unit and to your country, and doing the best you can. It's Semper Fi, Semper Fi to what the Corps stands for in relationship to each other, in relationship to what the Corps does for the country. So it's Semper Fi.