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Maddux column: John Glenn was one of our last true American heroes

John Glenn was an American hero.

We don’t have many of those anymore. In a day and age where we tear down people as quickly as we build them up, he might be one of our last.

I cried a few tears Thursday when the news came that he had died, even though his passing was inevitable. He was 95, after all. 

glennPhoto courtesy of Mark BoxleyWhat a life this man led. His accolades are mind-boggling.

Astronaut.

Pioneer.

Senator.

War hero as a Marine Corps pilot.

Husband (for more than 70 years!) and father.

And simply a nice person, who I was fortunate enough to meet several times.

He flew 59 combat missions in World War II.

He added 90 more in Korea in the early 1950s.

He broke the transcontinental flight speed record in 1957.

In 1962, he risked life and limb to leave the Earth and do something that would have been unthinkable a decade before, with technology that we would scoff at today. He became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, immortalizing him forever. He was a space pioneer in a day when it truly was the final frontier. 

In 1998, at age 77, he became the oldest man in space aboard the shuttle Discovery.

In between those visits to space, he kept himself busy … 24 years in the U.S. Senate (he was still a senator when he went back into space in 1998!). A potential vice presidential candidacy in 1976. A presidential run in 1984. 

In fact, as a 10-year-old, on April 21, 1983, my father took me out of Medill Elementary School in Lancaster, Ohio, and he and I sat in the gym at John Glenn High School in New Concord, Ohio — Glenn’s hometown — and watched him announce his candidacy for president.

His presidential campaign, despite his amazing resume, was hurt by a fatal flaw for candidates even 30 years ago — he simply wasn’t a gifted public speaker.

Yes, he was tarnished a bit as one of the Keating Five — five U.S. senators who were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating in the 1980s, during the savings and loan scandal. Glenn was exonerated, although the Senate Ethics Committee said he had used “poor judgment.”

Still, it was hard not to like and admire John Glenn. 

He was a small-town boy with from New Concord, a great athlete with all-American good looks. His childhood home is now a museum, and I was fortunate enough to tour it years ago when I was the editor of a newspaper about 20 miles away. 

What is striking about it is its simplicity. The home is not large by any stretch. The museum is not gaudy. He was a simple man from a simple upbringing who achieved extraordinary things.

He married his high school sweetheart, Annie, in 1943. She, too, overcame a challenge — a horrible stutter, to the point where she could barely communicate at times. She finally found the proper treatment in 1973 — at age 53 – that helped her overcome it, to the point that she regularly gave public talks. Indeed, John Glenn saw his wife as a hero. What a love story they shared.

And, in one of the wonderful twists of history, Ted Williams — yes, the “Splendid Splinter,” the greatest hitter of all time, the Red Sox outfielder and Hall-of-Famer — was in his Marine squadron during the Korean War.

“Ted flew as my wingman on about half the missions he flew in Korea,” Glenn told mlb.com when Williams passed away in 2002

How cool is that?

We will not see his like again. With his passing, we have lost a great American. A true hero, in a time when that word is thrown around more than it should be.

“I think John Glenn will be remembered as an actual hero at a time when heroes are often called heroes but are not,” Francis French, the author of many books on the space program's early days, told NPR.

“I think John Glenn is one of those people that's going to stay in the history books,” he continued. “And even the most cynical of history readers is going to go, ‘This guy actually is what everybody says he was.’”

I couldn’t agree more.

I will leave you with some words from John Glenn that he said that day in April 1983 when I was just a young boy. They seem as important now as ever:

“America is more diverse — and infinitely more complex than one community. Yet all Americans share the simple values we learned in this small town — the values of excellence, honesty, fairness, compassion for those who have less, and confidence in facing the future. Those values are truly the heart of the American experiment, and they must be the soul of our government as well.”

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Jason Maddux is editor of the Press And Journal.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 December 2016 10:26

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Donald Trump sticker on car led juveniles to break its window with a brick, police say

Four young people broke out the window of a car that had a Donald Trump sticker on it Nov. 27 in Steelton, after accosting the car’s owner, authorities reported.

At about 8 p.m., the Steelton Borough Police Department responded to the area of Locust Street at North Front Street for a criminal mischief incident. 

trump pointsThe car’s owner said that as she was standing beside her car, four juveniles approached her and asked if she voted for Donald Trump while pointing at a sticker on her vehicle. When she replied, they took a brick and smashed out her car window. 

Anyone with any information about the identities of these juveniles is asked to contact Steelton police at 717-939-9841.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 December 2016 13:31

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Rep. Barletta won't take job in Trump administration

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta on Thursday withdrew from consideration for a place in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Barletta had discussed positions, including secretary of Labor, in a meeting with Trump on Nov. 29 at Trump Tower in New York City, according to a press release from his office.

barletta lou“It was a great pleasure to meet with President-Elect Trump to discuss his transition to office and our mutual goal of moving America forward. We share many priorities for the future of the country, including protecting and growing American jobs, strengthening national security, enforcing our immigration laws, and rejuvenating our crumbling infrastructure system. I am proud to serve on his Transition Team Executive Committee.

“It was a tremendous honor for President-elect Trump to ask me to consider taking a place in his administration. After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my family and close friends, I decided today to remain in Congress and I withdrew from consideration for secretary of Labor. Because of my involvement in the president-elect’s campaign and my relationship with the incoming administration, I will have an opportunity in the House of Representatives to accomplish more on a variety of issues that I have cared about for so long, including immigration policy, transportation infrastructure, and jobs. Having helped the campaign with the development of those policies, coupled with serving on key committees in Congress and having a direct pipeline to the White House, I will be better positioned than ever to serve the people of the 11th District.”

Barletta’s 11th Congressional District is comprised of all of Columbia, Montour and Wyoming counties and parts of Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, Northumberland and Perry counties. 

It includes areas north and west of Middletown, including Lower Swatara Township.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 December 2016 13:07

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Middletown council accepts Chief Bey resignation, expects to act on appointing interim chief on Dec. 20

Middletown Borough Council during its Dec. 6 meeting voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Police Chief John Bey, who in an email sent to council earlier the same day announced he is resigning effective Dec. 30.

 

Bey, who has been chief since October 2014, has accepted a full-time position as financial management superintendent with the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, located at Harrisburg International Airport. 

 

Bey already serves the unit on a part-time basis as a chief master sergeant in the Air Guard. He will start the full-time job on Jan. 9.

 

Mayor James H. Curry III, who as mayor oversees the police department, after the meeting said he hopes to have a recommendation ready for council’s next meeting on Dec. 20 as to who should lead the department as interim chief after Bey departs. 

 

That person can be someone already in the Middletown Police Department, or it can be someone brought in from outside, Curry told the Press And Journal after the meeting.

 

Reacting to the chief’s resignation, Curry said “Obviously I’m disappointed. Over two years I’ve grown very close to Chief Bey. I think he’s an amazing worker. He brought professionalism to the department, he has great experience military-wise and through the state police. I think he’s exactly what the police department needed.”

 

Neither Curry nor Council President Ben Kapenstein had any details to provide regarding what council will do next, beyond picking an interim chief on Dec. 20.

 

“We are going to be very hard-stretched to find somebody with the same experience and professionalism that Chief Bey displayed during his time here,” Curry said. “He earned the trust of the community in a very short time. I would say within six months everybody knew him by name. He was the type of guy who stopped in at the diner, stopped in at the Brownstone, walked the streets and would say hello to people. That is the kind of person I like in charge of the police department.”

Final approval given to 2017 budget

 

In other news, council gave final approval to the 2017 budget by 5-1 vote. Councilor Robert Reid voted no, over council deciding to add $20,000 to the budget for unspecified improvements to council chambers.

 

The balanced budget adds two full-time employees - one in public works and the other a new police officer - without raising taxes or drawing down any money from the electric trust, Kapenstein pointed out. The budget also does not call for any increase in the electric rate. The budget includes 3 percent raises for non-union management employees.

Council approves borrowing $387K

Council also approved borrowing $387,000 through a general obligation note to fund converting all the borough’s street lights to more energy-efficient LED lighting in 2017. The project should be completed well before a Nov. 1 deadline that has been set, said Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter.

 

The money also covers the cost of the borough installing historic streetlights and fixing sidewalks along Emaus Street up to the new train station property.

 

The borrowing is through a note being sold to First Columbia Bank and Trust Co. that will be repaid over 13 years at 2.84 percent interest, although the borough can choose to pre-pay the note off without penalty, Kapenstein noted.

 

The $387,000 is a savings from the $490,000 bank loan that council had earlier planned to take out in order for a private company to do the LED project. The savings results from the borough doing the LED project in-house with its own public works employees, although it will take longer to complete the conversion by doing it this way.

No change in council public meeting schedule for 2017

In another matter, council plans in 2017 to stick to its current schedule of holding public meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, with some exceptions for when the date conflicts with a major holiday or an election.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 23:50

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Police Chief Bey resigns, to take job at 193rd

Middletown Police Chief John Bey resigned Tuesday, Dec. 6, after having led the force since October 2014.
bey john

Bey told the Press And Journal he is resigning effective Dec. 30 to accept a position as the full-time financial management superintendent for the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, located at Harrisburg International Airport.

Bey starts his new job with the 193rd on Monday, Jan. 9.

Councilor Diane McGlone called Bey’s resignation “unfortunate. He will be a tremendous loss to the police force and to our town.”

Bey “brought pride back to the police force and he also set the standards for the professionalism of local law enforcement” in the borough, McGlone said.

Mayor James H. Curry III was not available for comment. Council President Ben Kapenstein and Vice President Damon Suglia did not respond to requests for comment.

In his resignation letter, Bey said in part: “It is with a heavy heart that I am leaving this position as I’ve grown as a professional and as a person during my tenure.”

He also said in the letter: “It was a great privilege for me to work here for the past two years and I have learned a lot from my experience here. I would like to thank you all for working with me as a team.”

Bey came to the borough after retiring from 25 years of service as a Pennsylvania State Police trooper.

He has also been in the military since 1986 with the Air National Guard. Going from a traditional part-time National Guard airman to having a full-time position with the 193rd means that Bey will be able to increase his military retirement pay “exponentially” when he hangs up his uniform in about five or six years. Bey holds the military rank of chief master sergeant.

Bey also made it clear in an interview with the Press And Journal that he has always functioned better in a military-oriented environment, being that of the National Guard or in the State Police. 

Becoming a police chief in a small town such as Middletown, where the chain of command leads through an elected civilian borough council as well as an elected mayor, has been a challenging transition where the chief no doubt at times has felt like a fish out of water.

Nor did it help that Bey came to a department crying out for some semblance of stability; the borough having gone through three previous police chiefs over the three years leading up to when the council hired Bey in August 2014.

The environment at the police department upon his arrival was “tumultuous” and “toxic” and the force was “on the verge of disbandment,” Bey said.

“I was able to come in and kind of calm things down, provide some direction, establish some policies, increase morale, instill some training and kind of settle the waters,” Bey said. “I think they are on good solid ground. Hopefully the next chief can take the stick and run with that and move forward.”

Bey said he does not know what kind of transition the borough will put in place after he leaves on Dec. 30.

“I’m very open to sitting down with them and helping them with any transition moving forward. Even if they want to bring me back and be part of the interview process I would gladly do that,” Bey said.

However, the force faces a significant challenge regarding a lack of supervision — which could make any upcoming transition period more problematic.

That is something Bey sought to correct and, while not wishing to “cast any aspersions” on borough government and council, he acknowledged it is one example of frustration over not being able to accomplish all that he wanted to.

“I tried to get sergeants promoted because you need that supervision. It’s not there. For whatever reason the council did not move forward” with promoting sergeants, Bey said. “I don’t know what the borough’s plan will be going forward.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 15:56

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