Who Are Your Heroes?


Neil Armstrong

So…who are your heroes?  People you know personally, people you esteem from afar, people whose lives you admire?

I have had the honor of meeting many of my real-life heroes.  One was a fellow astronaut from a different era, Neil Armstrong.  You may remember him, the first human being to set foot on the moon.  His quote that day, July 20, 1969, is famous:  “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  He came to the Johnson Space Center to share with my astronaut class his experiences in NASA, in space.  He was such a kind, quiet, unassuming man!  Our paths crossed several times over the years.  My favorite quote from this true gentleman? “We all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work.”  It is a lesson I always try to remember.


John and Annie Glenn

Another astronaut is John Glenn, who went from the first astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962 to United States senator, to making his second flight into space in 1998 on the Space Shuttle at age 77.  When asked about his heroes, first and foremost he says his wife, Annie.  She followed him to many different bases during his military career.  Then she was thrust into the spotlight when he became an astronaut. It was painful for her because she had a severe stutter.  Finally, she found a doctor who was able to help her.   With great perseverance, she conquered this disability.  I had the honor of sitting next to the couple at a dinner in Washington, DC after my first flight in 1985.  Watching them together let me see his abiding love and admiration for her which makes him a hero to me.

Then, there were the Mercury 13 women pilots who tried so hard to become astronauts in the early 1960s America.  They even proved they could pass the physical exam given to astronaut applicants.  Unfortunately, NASA required both high performance jet time and test pilot experience, neither of which was available to women.

They were ahead of their time.


Robert “Hoot” Gibson, the man I married, and I

And most of all, my husband, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, who is a man’s man, an aviator’s aviator, “the man who has flown everything,” according to the Air and Space/Smithsonian magazine.  And he was brave enough to marry an independent woman—and accept that she kept her maiden name.  My mentor during my astronaut days, he is the rock I lean on when things get tough and the reason I have four beautiful children.  He certainly is “the wind beneath my wings.”

I hope you’ll look at your life for heroes who have earned your admiration!

– Rhea
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1 Comment

  1. My heroes are those who have achieved their dreams, be it in sports, academic, or in life.
    Not through lack of effort, I’m still desperately trying to achieve mine. Guess I’m just unlucky.

    Great blog and most thought provoking postings.

    All the very best


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