As we approach the third Sunday in June, we mark Father’s Day. The day we recognize the vital role that fathers play in family life. This will be my first Father’s Day without my Dad; he went to Heaven on April 7. This got me to wondering about famous pilots of the past and their role in fatherhood.
Orville and Wilbur Wright – Their Dad was a pastor and from him they acquired a love of learning and books. They also acquired a keen sense of observing creation, such as the flight of birds. They acquired their considerable mechanical ability from their mother. Neither Orville or Wilbur ever married. Both were lifelong bachelors (although Wilbur died at a relatively young age of 45) with no children.
Chuck Yeager – Yeager learned much about engines by working on his Dad’s old pickup truck in the hamlet of Hamlin, West Virginia. Yeager and Glennis (namesake of Glamorous Glennis) had four children that they raised.
Neil Armstrong – Neil’s Dad was an auditor who moved frequently for his work for the State of Ohio in Neil’s earlier years. Neil had three children. Sadly, his daughter, Karen died at age 2 of pneumonia caused by a brain tumor. His two sons, Eric and Mark lived into adulthood, but neither followed their Dad into aviation.
Gus Grissom – The second American into space died tragically in the Apollo I fire on January 27, 1967. He left a wife, Betty, and two sons. His crewmates Ed White (2 children) and Roger Chafee (2 children) both left widows to raise young children on their own. May we never forget the sacrifice that many paid to get us to the moon.
Lance Sijan – The Air Force Academy’s only Medal of Honor Winner. Sijan was single when he went to Vietnam. His F-4 was shot down and he died in a Prisoner of War Camp on January 22, 1968. Sijan never got the chance to have a family as he was trying to fight communism in Vietnam. His parents, Sylvester and Jane, were once guests on the Staff Tower at Mitchell Hall when I was a cadet. Upon their introduction, I witnessed one of the most spontaneous and heartfelt standing ovations I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. It was an honor to be in the same room with them.