A Meal With Neil (Armstrong)
In 1982, I was senior vice president for marketing for Gates Learjet with headquarters in Tucson, Ariz.On our corporate Board of Directors was a gentleman by the name of Neil Armstrong. Yes, the same man who was first a Navy pilot, then an astronaut and finally the first man to walk on the moon. Neil was retired by now and was serving as a consultant to some aerospace companies and also lecturing at a few institutions of higher education; especially those with significant programs specializing in aeronautical science & engineering.As a member of our board at Gates Learjet, Neil occasionally attended meetings of our board in Tucson. One of those occasions featured a dinner with board members, our CEO and special invited guests; particularly members of our senior management. On this occasion I was invited to attend and to my great surprise was seated next to Neil Armstrong. This seating arrangement gave me the opportunity to meet and carry on a conversation with this very famous aviator/astronaut. While very polite, Neil was not a conversationalist. He certainly responded to questions with honest and direct answers, but he seldom uttered any response that that would lead to a continuation of the subject specifically or the conversation generally. My one connection with him was that we both served as U.S Navy pilots (he in Korea and me in Vietnam). But quite honestly, Neil Armstrong was very hard to talk with; except, of course, if the conversation was of a technical nature and specifically aviation or space oriented.Many people have surmised that Neil was shy and reticent to engage in any sort of lengthy conversation. But after spending an evening sitting next to him through dinner and an after-dinner roundtable discussion, I would say that was not necessarily the case.Neil Armstrong, to my mind, was an extremely technical person, one who only became engaged in discussion that truly stimulated his technology-oriented mind and aviation/astronautical experience. Small talk was not his forte and voicing his opinion was not something in which he took great pleasure.However, he was quick to proclaim his thoughts, not only publicly but to the U.S. Congress, concerning this administration’s intentions regarding the future of NASA and the U.S. Space Program. This subject met his interest and elicited forthright commentary. To be more precise, he disliked what was happening to the U.S. Space Program and to the NASA organization which had given so much glory, honor and prestige to him and our nation. Neil and many of his fellow astronauts felt passionately and strongly that America is giving up leadership of the world in space travel and exploration.We will greatly miss Neil Armstrong in our society. His bravery, dedication, loyalty and willingness to risk everything to achieve for America that which he knew was needed for our people, our country and our universe was unbounded, much like the space he traveled.GOD SPEED, Neil Armstrong.W.R. Westlake, PhDCommander, U.S. Navy, Ret.Granby
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