Wednesday, January 14, 2009

As His Eyes Penetrated The Darkness

As his eyes penetrated the darkness, a point of light streaked across the sky. He followed it with his eyes until it disappeared over the horizon. All at once several more streaks of light flashed past him and they followed the last streak, until they too vanished into the night. The time it took for each streak of light to appear and then disappear was measured in fractions of a second. He stood there in utter silence as he drank in the splendor of the night sky that glittered and twinkled from horizon to horizon. It was hard for him to believe that so much more existed out there than existed on this mere tiny spec of a planet upon which was the platform for this of points-of-light display. As he contemplated the darkness, a tiny spec of moving light appeared on the East horizon with a path from East to West. It moved in a steady pace across the sky, much slower than the meteorites he had just witnessed. He didn't know it at the time, but he had just observed the first man-made satellite to join the star-studded night, The Soviet Union's "Sputnic". Homer stood in awe of what he saw. He vowed, right then and there, that he wanted to make rockets.
But alas, the deck was stacked against Homer. His father, Homer Sr., a tough task master by any measure, was superintendent of a coal mine in Coalwood, West Virginia. Like so many fathers who wanted their sons to follow in their footsteps, he wanted Homer Jr. to become a coal miner and ultimately a superintendent, as he had become. The mine was in his blood in spite of the dangers from black lung disease, cave-ins and mine explosions. (Homer Sr. later died from black lung disease) He envisioned that his sons would share in that exhilaration. It was not to be. Homer, Jr. had other plans. He was going to build rockets.
In spite of and in almost open defiance of his father's objections, Homer Jr. set out with a few friends to experiment with rockets. They called themselves the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA). Their experiments ended almost entirely in failure. But they were learning with each attempt. For parts, they scrounged everywhere and got friends and some adults to help them. All of Homer's rocket-building activity created even more friction between he and his father.
Nevertheless, a teacher in the high school that Homer attended, sensing his enthusiasm, and even knowing that Homer was a marginal student, suggested that Homer's rocket group, the BCMA, try out for the 1960 National Science Fair. Homer and his BCMA group were awarded a gold and silver medal for their entries.
Homer graduated from Virginia Tech in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. He began employment with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in 1981 as an aerospace engineer. During his NASA career, Homer worked in spacecraft design and crew training. His specialties at NASA included training astronauts on science payloads, and extra-vehicular activities (EVA). He also trained astronaut crews for many Spacelab and Space Shuttle missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope deployment mission, the first two Hubble repair missions, Spacelab-J (the first Japanese astronauts), and the Solar Max repair mission. Prior to his retirement from federal service in 1998, Homer was the Payload Training Manager for the International Space Station Program.
A United States Army veteran, Homer served as a First Lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry Division during the Vietnam War in 1967 and 1968. For his service, he earned the Commendation and Bronze Star Medals. He served six years on active duty, leaving the Army as a Captain.
Homer was a boy and then a man, driven by a dream to accomplish something of great importance to him, no matter what the obstacles in his way. He even defied his own father to reach that dream. They later reconciled.
Homer is the essence of the American spirit and enthusiasm to create something of value, in a free land that allows creativity, industriousness, the pursuit of excellence and pride in our accomplishments to flourish. In the absence of that freedom, the servitude that replaces it, produces sloth, mediocrity, self-contempt and apathy. Servitude is worse than being dead. We need to rekindle that American spirit and enthusiasm in all of our people, but unfortunately there are evil forces that are putting road blocks in the way. Every attempt must be made to drown out the evil forces who would take away our freedom and our sovereignty. Men like Homer,with enthusiasm, spirit and drive, could lead the way.
"The noise is shattering. It shudders the air for almost a hundred miles. It shakes the ground upon which you stand, as you witness in awe, man's almost arrogant defiance of the forces of nature. It belches unimaginable fire and smoke from its tail and slowly, it breaks the bounds of Earth's gravity and rises ever faster, arcing into an azure sky. It screeches in anger with a body-penetrating roar as it fights valiantly against Earth's attempts to pull it back. A long, curving stream of white smoke outlines its path into the awaiting heavens. In minutes it is nothing but a spec against a backdrop of blue. Suddenly a soundless puff of flame and smoke mark the separation of its lift-off stage rockets. Spaceship Discovery has broken free of Earth and reaches for the stars, at seven miles per second." (From Ron's book, "Stare Deep Into the Cosmos.")
Reaching for the stars is what Americans are all about. Homer Hickam, the rocket boy, represents the best in us. He realized his dream and he helped America reach for the stars. We sincerely hope that America is still producing men like Homer because it is that spirit, that enthusiasm, that drive and ambition to make a dream come true, that will lead us back to what America once was.
If you would like to be inspired; if you would like to feel good about America and what we, as Americans can be, we encourage you to see the movie, "October Sky". This is the story of a young boy named Homer Hickam, who had a dream and followed it, no matter where it led, or what it cost. He never once considered failure as an option. As freedom-loving Americans we need to follow Homer's lead and never consider failure as an option.
If you are concerned about what a President Obama and a U. S. Congress will do, request a copy of our "Petition Declaring Potential Constitutional Violations by the 2009 incoming U. S. President, Barack Hussein Obama and the U. S. Congress" by e-mailing us at and insert "VOUSC 2009-007" in the subject line.
Ron Ewart

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