This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (http://rbmartiniv.smugmug.com).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Where Were You When Apollo 11 Landed on the Moon?

Buzz Aldrin wants to know where we were when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was July 20, 1969, forty-five years ago. Anyone who does remember is most likely eligible for membership in AARP. No spring chicken for sure. Well, I have been a member of AARP for sometime now and I remember exactly, and vividly, where I was when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. I was at my in-laws home in Toccoa, GA after having moved a very pregnant Carol Ann back in with her parents after I was drafted into the Army.

I entered the service in January 1969 and suffered through basic training in the ice and snow at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. I then spent a relatively pleasant spring at Fort Sill, OK’s Field Artillery School learning to be a 13E20 (Fire Direction Control Specialist). At the end of my training I was sent home on a 30-day leave with orders for Vietnam at the end of my leave. I had appealed, unsuccessfully, to the Army and the Red Cross, for a delay in shipping out so that I could be home when our first child was born. The due date was about six-weeks after I was scheduled for shipment overseas. Finally, while on my 30-day leave, our two families were able to convince the two Senators from Georgia, Richard B. Russell and Herman Talmadge to intervene on my behalf. I received a telephone call from a highly pissed-off Colonel in the Pentagon who informed me that as a courtesy to Senators Russell and Talmadge I was to be given 6-weeks of temporary stateside duty, beginning when my leave was over. He asked what Army post was nearest to Toccoa. It was Fort McPherson, 90-miles away in Atlanta, GA.

For those 6-weeks I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights at Fort Mac. I would drive to Toccoa on Thursday afternoon and not return to Fort Mac until Monday morning. I had a very understanding commanding officer and as a result I was in Toccoa when my son was born on Thursday, July 17, 1969.

Three days later, on Sunday, July 20, 1969, I was standing in the door of my in-laws bedroom and we were all watching the color console television set in their bedroom as Neil Armstrong took that big step. I vividly remember the scene, the furniture in the room, the colors, and the picture on the TV. It was an unbelievable moment.

Then, on Wednesday, July 23, 1969 I was on an airplane en route to Vietnam. Man possessed the technology for men to fly to the moon, land on it, walk around on it, and then return safely to Earth. Yet with all of that brainpower we were still training men to kill each other like cavemen.

Forty-two years later I was fortunate enough to meet Buzz Aldrin in Sun Valley, Idaho at a small cocktail party during the Christmas season. We were two of only six or eight guests at the home of a friend of my son’s. I was able to casually discuss the moon landing, NASA, and the future of space travel with a real astronaut, a “rocket scientist,”  who had been to the moon and back. His wife (now divorced) was there also, almost every square inch of her clothing, including her shoes, covered in rhinestones. Buzz was dressed in a sport coat, a shirt that neither matched in color or pattern, and a western string tie. He was extremely cordial but it was easy to tell that he enjoyed the attention and ego-stroking that he had grown used to over the past 42-years. He had a large ego and was somewhat boastful, but that should probably be expected of someone who had the guts, ambition, and ability to accomplish what so very few people have done.

But the thing I remember most about my conversation with Buzz was when he explained why it was Armstrong, rather than himself, who was the first to exit the landing module and be the first man to set foot on the moon. The explanation was simple, according to Buzz Aldrin. The module was quite cramped, their spacesuits were bulky, and Armstrong’s seat was next to the door. He had to exit first to keep Aldrin from crawling over him to get out.

Please tell us where you were and what you remember about the moon landing in the comments.

3 comments :

Croft Randle said...

Well, we had been married for four months and were living in an apartment in Campbell River, BC, the same town we live in now but we left for twenty years in between. Anyway, that was where we watched the moon landing, on a small black and white TV in that apartment.

I have heard that story before, about why Neil Armstrong got to be first out. I wish I had been there to meet Buzz, I would have asked him if they really did see a UFO on the moon.

Bill said...

Buzz should have been the first one out. Then maybe the first words stepping on the moon wouldn't have been as staged or hokey as Armstrong's.

Stoney Shukat said...

I was watching on a Muntz tv. As the jingle went, "Theres' something about a Muntz tv, in oh so many ways...".