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Astronaut and Senator John Glenn Eulogized as American Archetype

  • VOA News

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the funeral of John Glenn at Ohio State University in Columbus, Dec. 17, 2016. Glenn, the famed astronaut, died Dec. 8 at age 95.

Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn "defined what it meant to be an American," Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday during a memorial service for Glenn in Columbus, Ohio.

The service took place in Glenn's home state, on the campus of Ohio State University. Biden was one of several prominent speakers at the funeral, including NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and retired Marine General Jack Dailey.

Glenn defined "what it meant to be an American, what we were about, just by how he acted," Biden said. "It was always about promise, it was a country of opportunity. ... Always a belief in tomorrow."

John David Glenn hugs his sister, Carolyn Ann, after they spoke at their father John Glenn's funeral in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 17, 2016.
John David Glenn hugs his sister, Carolyn Ann, after they spoke at their father John Glenn's funeral in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 17, 2016.

During the service, Glenn's children, Carolyn Ann and John David, said their father asked them repeatedly, "What have you done for your country today?"

"John came out of the heart of the country, like you kids do, and he stole America's heart," the vice president continued. "He knew by his upbringing that ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things."

Dailey said the nation had Glenn for 95 years and "it still wasn't enough."

Mourners braved ice and cold weather to line the streets as a procession of U.S. Marines led the hearse carrying Glenn's casket through the streets of Columbus.

A mourner salutes the casket of John Glenn as he lies in honor in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 16, 2016.
A mourner salutes the casket of John Glenn as he lies in honor in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 16, 2016.

On Friday, thousands viewed his flag-draped casket inside Ohio's Statehouse rotunda.

Glenn flew 149 combat missions as a military fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War, earning many medals, then became one of the "Mercury 7," the first group of American astronauts, chosen in 1959. He was the last survivor of that group.

He gained worldwide fame as a space hero in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Following a two-decade career in the U.S. military, Glenn entered politics and served in the Senate for 25 years.

Tourists gather near a tribute to former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, at the National Air and Space Museum, Dec. 9, 2016 in Washington, D.C.
Tourists gather near a tribute to former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, at the National Air and Space Museum, Dec. 9, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Glenn made history again in 1998 when he returned to space at age 77 for a nine-day orbital flight aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery. Apart from the novelty of his status as the oldest astronaut ever, scientists noted that Glenn's physical state in orbit could be compared with data from his records of more than three decades earlier, providing valuable information about how space flight affects the body at different ages.

After leaving the Senate in 1999, Glenn helped to found a public service school at Ohio State, which later became the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. He served as an adjunct professor at that school.

Glenn won numerous accolades, including honorary university degrees, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, a U.S. Senate public service award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He died in Columbus on December 8. He had been hospitalized about a week earlier and was surrounded by his family, including his wife, Annie, and their children.

Marines carry John Glenn's casket at the end of his funeral at Ohio State University in Columbus, Dec. 17, 2016.
Marines carry John Glenn's casket at the end of his funeral at Ohio State University in Columbus, Dec. 17, 2016.

He will be buried in April at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the final resting place of most American military heroes and many statesmen, across the Potomac River from the U.S. national monuments near the Capitol and White House.

WATCH: Vice President Joe Biden speaks at funeral for John Glenn

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