Frank's note: I remember the sound the wheels made as they clanked on the asphalt pathways of Arlington National Cemetery. In my minds eye I see the sunlights glint on the brass buckles holding saddle to horse, for it was the horses that accompanied the procession that carried his flag-draped coffin that hot summers day. It was July 1999, less than three weeks before the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11. And I, along with many hundreds of others, including the astronaut heroes of my youth, walked that July day in the sun behind the procession that carried Pete Conrad to his resting place high in the hills above Arlington. Earlier, crammed in a small stone chapel on the cemeterys grounds, Willie Nelson played and all of us prayed for Petes soul. He was the second human to have walked the ancient lunar soil to be buried in Arlington. He was only one of many American astronauts who lie there, in that hallowed place reserved for the heroes of our history.
This Memorial Day, we remember the many heroes whose sacrifices have kept us free. We will mark the losses of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. But let us not forget those who we have flown beyond the atmosphere and made the ultimate sacrifice. For they, too have made America what it is today-and will someday be for others. For so many of us, space exploration is both a career and a fixation. We eat and sleep it, dream about it, try, usually in vain, to explain our fixation to others. But only a small number of us put our lives on the line to make space flight happen. They-and their families and friends, know the true cost of risking everything to advance human knowledge, explore the unknown, and bring honor and glory and sometimes sadness that punctuates our times. Let us thank all who fly in space, hold dear and close those we have lost, and mark this Memorial Day with both pride and determination that their losses will not be forgotten or diminished by whatever path we take in space.
No matter what flavor of space program we favor, we can all agree on that, cant we?
Per aspera Ad Astra. God Bless them all, and may God always bless America.