A little kid looked at the heavens once and decided he should be there. So, with starstruck eyes and moondust in his soul he dreamt every night of golden wings and fifty miles altitude. With encouragement and dedication from his teachers and parents, he began to see his world through the eyes of those too brave to limit themselves to Earth. Convinced he would be among them, he began planning stops on his tour to the cosmos: Houston, Cape Kennedy, ISS.
A teenager saw his dreams torn apart over a bluebird Texas sky. Too young for Challenger, he watched in shock as the proudest of orbiters settled into atoms on her way back to Kennedy and a nation began to mourn for those seven souls too brave, anew. Scrubbed of childhood wonder, the business of flight was scary, unnerving, and for the moment, grounded. Amidst the pangs of a country demanding answers, the teenager saw his dream seemingly shelved. Yet, when the doubts crept in, he stubbornly held onto the one thing he had all along: that childhood wonder.
A young adult watched his dream re-ignite under the SRBs of STS-135 and liftoff once more on the shoulders of the Atlantis. Everything was right with the world again as four of those too brave souls ended an era of which he had grown up with. The culmination of his college career and STS were almost simultaneous, leaving a contented country and one enthused young adult with only one question: what next? There was no limit: the moon, Mars, and beyond. As a new decade dawned, that childhood wonder has served this young adult well, leading him to explore and become a citizen of faith and science. But one singular goal remains, and until that goal is achieved there will be no nights without dreams of golden wings and souls too brave.
What kept my dream of spaceflight alive through all these years has been my passion to explore. But even more so the efforts and sacrifices of the astronauts who I have watched fly into orbit, make the superhuman seem routine, and return to lead America into her new future. I never looked up to the heroes of culture as a child. The Mercury 7 and TFNGs were the posters on my wall. There may be a day I join them, and it will make all this dreaming a beautiful prelude. Until then, and especially today, I will work to honor the memories of those lost too soon in the ultimate act of service to Mankind.