They say that confession is good for the soul, so here goes: I have always been fascinated about space and space flight. I don't mean the Capt.-Kirk-and-Han-Solo type of space flight. I mean the real thing. The stuff that Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas didn't create.
Mind you, I have never had a lick of talent for it and certainly didn't possess the intellect, courage or discipline to be an astronaut. But still, it has fascinated me.
Like many of a certain age, my guys were John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. To me, they beat Luke Skywalker, Mr. Spock and even Yoda hands down.
Both men had snuggled up right next to death and spit in its face, becoming iconic American heroes in the process. Each treated his fame differently, with one of them seeking the public spotlight and the other shunning it. But each carried himself with a dignity and grace that I can only dream of emulating.
So, when a true American hero comes to the area for a speaking engagement who says his heroes are John Glenn and Neil Armstrong -- well, I felt I needed to check out NASA astronaut Mark Kelly's speech last week at the Lesher Foundation's Newsmakers series.
Make no mistake, Kelly is a bona fide hero and, as such, is no slouch when it comes to achievements, commendations and prestigious awards. If I were to list them here, it would take the remainder of this space. Kelly is a decorated Navy pilot, exceptional test pilot and he flew four space
But he told the sellout crowd Tuesday that, outside of his family, the two men who had the greatest influence in his career were Glenn and Armstrong.
It is refreshing to know that humble heroes still have humble heroes.
Apart from his stellar career in flight, Kelly also has the distinction of being known in certain circles as Mr. Gabrielle Giffords, the husband of the Arizona congresswoman who nearly died after being among many shot by a deranged gunman in Tuscon.
In listening to Kelly one gets the sense that, if he hadn't before, he now puts Giffords right up there on that pedestal with Glenn and Armstrong. And why wouldn't he? She has survived and continues to slowly recover against all odds, winning small daily battles. Or, as Kelly quotes Giffords' mantra, "fight, fight, fight."
She even stirringly led the Pledge of Allegiance last week at the Democratic convention.
Kelly's stories about her will and determination clearly have him in awe.
He said that one of her most significant battles is with aphasia, a little-known condition that often follows traumatic injuries such as strokes and severe brain injuries. Although not well-known, aphasia affects more than 2 million Americans.
It impedes the receptors in the brain. While intelligence remains intact, the ability to speak, comprehend, read and write may be lost or reduced.
Frankly, it is something I knew little about until Tuesday, even though I have witnessed it. I didn't know it had a name.
But the Lesher series is all about educating the public. It does so with each guest speaker as it highlights the work of a local nonprofit organization.
This time it was the Aphasia Center of California in Oakland. The short presentation before Kelly's speech left me wanting to know more about it, and I found it at www.aphasiacenter.org.
Giffords and Kelly are each stars in their own right, but together they are a cosmic force. To that end, they have announced formation of a political action committee designed to attract moderates into the nation's political process. On that effort and, particularly, on Giffords' recovering fight, we wish them Godspeed.