I have told some of you that we have an Angel who is fondly known as "the Space Angel" by many of our SA heroes. Her name is Joan Kranz and she works at NASA Flight Training Division, Shuttle Training Operations and Planning. She often sends our heroes NASA memorabilia, decals and even signed autographed pictures from the astronauts. That is pretty neat in itself, but Joan has a very special Dad as was well.
Her father is Eugene Kranz, who was NASA's mission control commander when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. Kranz was known for his "failure is not an option" motto. He led the team that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts after an explosion crippled their ship in space.
Joan received the following email from her sister Jeannie this weekend.
Dad's ability to motivate others continues in such an amazing way. What he did on Friday during the Shuttle launch literally brought tears to my eyes every time I thought about it.
Earlier in the week the NASA White House liaison, who I have become friends with, and had sent one of Dad's books late last year, knew Mom and Dad were in town and asked me if I wanted to have them [at the VVIP viewing location].
I declined at first, but then when I heard the [Iraq War] vets were coming again, thought it would be nice to have Dad meet with them.
So, I went to the store and bought 50 FINAO ("Failure Is Not An Option") hats and other stuff for signature. Lots of people were getting signatures and taking photos with Dad but once everything settled down, Dad sat down with one particular Soldier. He was wheelchair bound, almost half his head was pretty much missing and he had some braces and scars on his arms and legs - clearly LOTS of surgery - and the worst off in the group.
The count was going well and it looked like we were "go" for launch. Everyone moved out to the massive viewing deck. Dad was still talking with the vet and we were about 3 minutes out.
I really wanted Dad to experience this with Mom, so I asked the nurse if the vet was coming out. She said he was going to view from inside the conference room where there are massive screens as well as large windows. She explained that many with head trauma experience various pains from the brightness and sound of the launch (it's pretty stunning) so they watch from inside.
Well, this large room had now emptied, everyone was out on the viewing deck but this one Soldier and Dad, still sitting inside. Dad was talking him through the countdown and he was asking questions. Mom was already stationed in her place, and I walked in and asked if he was going to come out and join us.
He said, "No, Jeannie, I think I'm going to stay here with this gentleman and enjoy from inside" - I knew he just wanted to keep him company. The whole situation was pretty gut wrenching. I went out and joined Mom and we watched an amazing launch.
Afterward, the other vets came in and surrounded Dad and they sat there just swapping stories - lots of smiling. They got stuff signed and took pictures. I was tremendously moved, and still tear up when I think about it. It clearly meant the world to this guy and Dad told me afterward in the car ride back to his hotel that the Soldier had his feet on the floor and could feel the rumble and got a huge smile on his face.
It was amazing and made me so, so proud, again...
Update: The Astronaut Prayer sent by a Marine Chaplain in Iraq for Marine Col. Sturckow, Commander of the current shuttle mission.