Former astronaut delivered keynote speech at 2005 Memorial Day festivities
Hanover Evening Sun
Photo: Hanover Evening Sun
During a keynote speech at Gettysburg's Memorial Day festivities, Armstrong, then 74, posed a question to the large crowd assembled at Soldiers' National Cemetery: How can Americans honor the heroic souls who lie there?
"I suggest, it's by building the America they believed in, and hoped it would become, and for which they had given their lives ... a nation of which they could be proud," he said, answering his own question.
A little bit of luck brought Armstrong to Gettysburg.
Charlie Kuhn, the chairman for the Gettysburg Joint Veterans Memorial Day Commission that year, happened to mention to the 2004 keynote speaker - Adm. Thomas Hayward - about his interest in bringing Armstrong to speak.
"Who, Neil?" Hayward said to Kuhn. "I know Neil."
"Apparently they are friends," Kuhn said in 2005.
Armstrong flew in 78 combat missions over North Korea. He flew some of the nation's most experimental supersonic jets, including the now famous X-15, which he flew to the rim of space at speeds approaching 4,000 mph.
He was also the commander of the Gemini 8 mission in 1966 when he successfully completed the first docking of two vehicles in space. And, of course, he commanded the Apollo 11 craft that touched down on the moon's surface 40 years ago Monday and delivered his famous "one small step for man" line.
His speech in Gettysburg focused on the sacrifices of soldiers. Armstrong said he hoped Americans would continue to be a nation that others try to emulate, rather than castigate. He placed some of those hopes upon the veterans of wars.
"If there has been any good in war it is that the veterans have learned from their wartime experience," he said. "Their character has been tempered by the fires of battle, and they recognize the responsibility for building the America for which so many paid so much is ours."
Armstrong addresses a large crowd at the National Cemetery for Memorial Day. (GNMP)