National Sojourners®

"When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen."

Colonel Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin was born on January 20, 1930, in Montclair, New Jersey. His father, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, encouraged his interest in flight. Aldrin became a fighter pilot and flew in the Korean War. In 1963, NASA selected him for the next Gemini mission. In 1969, Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong, made history when they walked on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin later worked to develop space-faring technology and became an author, writing several sci-fi novels, children’s books, and memoirs including Return to Earth (1973), Magnificent Desolation (2009) and No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon (2016).

Biography: Famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin was born Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. on January 20, 1930 in Montclair, NJ. He earned his nickname, “Buzz,” as a child when his little sister mispronounced the word “brother” as “buzzer. His family shortened the nickname to “Buzz.” Aldrin would make it his legal first name in 1988. In 1947, Buzz graduated from Montclair High School in Montclair, NJ, and headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He took well to the discipline and strict regimens, and was the first in his class his freshman year. He graduated third in his class in 1951 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering.

Personal Life: Aldrin has been married three times. He and his first wife, actress Joan Archer, had three children together – James, Janice and Andrew. His second wife was Beverly Zile. He married his third wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, on Valentine’s Day in 1988. They divorced in 2012.

Military Career: Aldrin officially entered the U.S. Air Force in 1951. He again scored near the top of his class in flight school, and began fighter training later that year. During his time in the military, Aldrin joined the 51st Fighter Wing, where he flew F-86 Sabre Jets in 66 combat missions in Korea. Aldrin’s wing was responsible for breaking the enemy “kills” record during combat, when they shot down 61 enemy MIGs and grounded 57 others in one month of combat. Aldrin shot down two MIG-15s, and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service during the war. After a cease-fire was declared between North and South Korea in 1953, Aldrin returned home. He pursued higher education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he planned to complete a master’s degree and then apply for test pilot school. Instead, he earned a Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics, graduating in 1963. His thesis subject “Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous” was the study of bringing piloted spacecraft into close proximity with each other.

Space Flight: His Ph.D. helped to earn him entry into the space program shortly after graduation. In 1963, Aldrin was part of a third group of men selected by NASA to attempt to pioneer space flight. He was the first astronaut with a doctorate and because of his expertise he earned the nickname “Dr. Rendezvous.” Aldrin was put in charge of creating docking and rendezvous techniques for spacecraft. He also pioneered underwater training techniques to simulate spacewalking. In 1966, Aldrin and astronaut Jim Lovell were assigned to the Gemini 12 crew. During their November 11 to November 15, 1966, space flight, Aldrin made a five-hour spacewalkΓÇöthe longest and most successful spacewalk ever completed at that time. He also used his rendezvous abilities to manually recalculate all the docking maneuvers on the flight after the on-board radar failed. He also took a photograph of himself, which would later be called the first “selfie” in space, on that mission. After Gemini 12, Aldrin was assigned to the back-up crew of Apollo 8 along with Neil Armstrong and Jack Schmitt. For the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, Aldrin served as the lunar module pilot. On July 20, 1969, he made history as the second man to walk on the moon, following mission commander Armstrong, who took the first step on the lunar surface. They spent a total of 21 hours during the moonwalk, and returned with 46 pounds of moon rocks. The walk, which was televised, drew an estimated 600 million people to watch, becoming the world’s largest television audience in history. Upon their safe return to Earth, Aldrin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by a 45-day international goodwill tour.

Other honors include having Asteroid “6470 Aldrin” and the “Aldrin Crater” on the moon named after him. Aldrin and his Apollo 11 crewmates Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins also received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011, and the Apollo 11 crew was honored with four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California. In March 1972, after 21 years of service, Aldrin retired from active duty and returned to the Air Force in a managerial role. He later revealed in his 1973 autobiography, “Return to Earth,” that he battled depression and alcoholism following his years with NASA. After struggling with divorce and maintaining sobriety, Aldrin turned to studying advancements in space technology. He devised a spacecraft system for missions to Mars known as the “Aldrin Mars Cycler,” and has received three U.S. patents for his schematics of a modular space station, Starbooster reusable rockets, and multi-crew modules. He also founded the ShareSpace Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to advancing space education, exploration and affordable space flight experiences. In 2014, he revamped the nonprofit to focus on STEAM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) to inspire children from kindergarten through 8th grade to learn about space. In August 2015, he launched the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute at Florida Tech to promote and develop his vision of a permanent human settlement on the planet Mars. Aldrin became a prolific author. In addition to his first autobiography, “Return to Earth,” he wrote “Magnificent Desolation.” a memoir that hit bookshelves in 2009 – just in time for the 40th anniversary of his historic moon landing. He has also written several children’s books, including “Reaching for the Moon” (2005), “Look to the Stars” (2009) and “Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet” (2015); science-fiction novels including “The Return” (2000) and “Encounter with Tiber” (2004), co-authored with John Barnes; and “Men from Earth” (1989), a historical account of the lunar landing. He released the memoir “No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon” (2016). In November 2016, Aldrin toured Antarctica, where he had to be medically evacuated to be treated at a hospital in New Zealand. A statement on his website said he was in stable condition with fluid in his lungs, but in good spirits and responding well to antibiotics.

Masonic History: Buzz Aldrin was initiated and passed in Oak Park Lodge #864 in Montgomery, AL in February and April 1955. He was raised at Lawrence N. Greenleaf Lodge #169 in Denver, CO in February 1956. He took his York Rite Degrees and Orders in Waco, TX in May 1967. He is a member of Clear Lake Lodge #1417 in Seabrook, TX and Montclair Lodge #144 in NJ. He is also a 33° Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Houston S.J., a Knight Templar, a Shriner, and a National Sojourner. Brother Aldrin was initiated as a National Sojourner at the Annual National Convention in Cocoa Beach in June 1969 just before his July 1969 moon landing. Of note, Brother Aldrin flew the Scottish Rite, S.J. Supreme Council’s flag on the moon. That flag is now on display in the Masonic Museum of the Supreme Council Scottish Rite Temple in Washington, D.C. In addition, Brother Aldrin carried with him a Special Deputation from the Grand Master of Texas constituting and appointing him as Special Deputy of the Grand Master, granting unto him full power in the premises to represent the Grand Master as such and authorize him to claim Masonic Territorial Jurisdiction for The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Texas on The Moon, and directed that he make due return of his acts.

Colonel Joe M. Jackson (deceased)

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Jackson, U.S. Air Force, received his Medal of Honor citation for the Vietnam War in 1968:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as a pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a three-man USAF Combat Control Team from the Special Forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small-arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic-weapons, and recoilless-rifle fire. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, eight aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and one aircraft remained on the runway reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only one air strike prior to his landing. Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanship and extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding. While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson’s profound concern for his fellow men, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

Biography: Joe Jackson, born on 14 March 1923, in Newnan, Georgia, was an avid model aircraft enthusiast in his youth. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1941, a few days after his 18th birthday, in hopes of learning more about aeronautics.

World War II: Nine months after he enlisted, the U.S. entered WW II and Jackson was assigned to serve as crew chief aboard a B-25 Mitchell bomber. As a testament to his early flight aptitude, he helped save his fellow crewman by assisting his aircraft’s pilot during an engine fire. Soon after, Jackson successfully completed Aviation Cadet Training and became a commissioned officer. He flew P-40 Warhawks and P-63 Kingcobras throughout the war, and ended the war at the controls of a B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft.

Korea and early Cold War: During the late 1940s, Jackson returned to flying fighter aircraft. During the Korean War, he successfully flew 107 combat missions in the F-84 Thunderjet. His accomplishments include:

  • Discovering a method of navigating an aircraft back to base in poor weather
  • Developing Standard Jet Penetration, a popular method of landing a jet aircraft with low ceilings and low visibility
  • Developing mass transoceanic ferrying flights
  • Creating a bomb-throwing method allowing nuclear weapons to be delivered by fighter aircraft
  • Planning and directing aerial reconnaissance over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962
  • Becoming one of the first Air Force pilots to fly the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft

Vietnam: After completing a staff tour in Europe, Jackson was assigned to fly the C-123 Provider over South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. While he flew 298 combat missions, it was his rescue mission on 12 May 1968 during the Battle of Kham Duc that earned him the nation’s highest award for military valor. On 16 January 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Jackson with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Also receiving the Medal of Honor that day was fellow Newnan native Stephen W. Pless, a Marine aviator who, like Jackson, had earned the decoration for an airborne rescue operation. Upon realizing that both Pless and Jackson were from the same small Georgia town, President Johnson quipped “there must be something in the water down in Newnan.”

Later Life: After Vietnam, Jackson served at the Pentagon before his final assignment as Chief of Strategic Forces Studies in the Department of Military Strategy at the Air War College from May 1971 until his retirement from the Air Force on 31 December 1973 at the rank of Colonel. Jackson continued to serve on active duty in the Air Force for several more years, both at the Pentagon and on the faculty of the Air War College. He eventually retired after 33 years of active duty service. He currently resides in the state of Washington. On 14 May 2010, NBC News highlighted his weekly contributions over 18 years to a local church that provides meals to the hungry.

Military Awards: Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with one service star, Korean War Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one service star, Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and two oak leaf clusters, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Small Arms Marksmanship Ribbon, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, United Nations Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Korean War Service Medal.

Masonic History: Member of Coweta Lodge #60, Newman, GA and a National Sojourner.

SFC Sammy L. Davis, USA (Ret) Medal of Honor Recipient

{Excerpted from his Wikipedia Entry:}

Early Years: Born in Dayton, Ohio, on November 1, 1946, Davis was raised in French Camp, California. His family had a long tradition of military service; his grandfather served in the Spanish-American War, his father Robert Davis was in World War II, and his brothers Hubert (“Buddy”) and Darrell Davis served in Korea and Vietnam, respectively. Davis attended Manteca High School in Manteca, California, where he was a member of the football and diving teams. He also participated in Sea Scouting in Stockton. After his junior year of high school, Davis’ family moved to Indiana. He graduated from Mooresville High School in 1966.

Military Career: Davis enlisted in the United States Army from Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1965. In March 1967, Davis was sent to South Vietnam as a private first class, and was assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. On November 18, 1967, his unit at Firebase Cudgel (10.4198°N 105.991°E) west of Cai Lay, fell under machine gun fire and heavy mortar attack by an estimated three companies of Viet Cong from the 261st Viet Cong Main Force Battalion, which swarmed the area from the south and then west. Upon detecting an enemy position, Davis manned a machine gun to give his comrades covering fire so they could fire artillery in response. Davis was wounded, but ignored warnings to take cover, taking over the unit’s burning howitzer and firing several shells himself. He also disregarded his inability to swim due to a broken back, and crossed a river there on an air mattress to help rescue three wounded American soldiers. He ultimately found his way to another howitzer site to continue fighting the NVA attack until they fled. The battle lasted two hours. Davis was subsequently promoted to sergeant and received the Medal of Honor the following year from President Lyndon B. Johnson.[8] After he was presented the medal at the White house ceremony, Davis played “Oh Shenandoah” on his harmonica in memory of the men he served with in Vietnam. Davis retired in 1984 due to his war-time injuries.

Military awards: Davis’s military decorations and awards include: Medal of Honor, Silver Star, National Defense Service Medal, and Purple Heart with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster (2 awards).

Later Years: In 1994, footage of his Medal of Honor award ceremony was used in the film Forrest Gump, with actor Tom Hanks’ head superimposed over that of Davis. On July 4, 2010, Davis helped celebrate the 100th birthday of the Boy Scouts of America at Arlington Park. Davis entered scouting at the age of 9. He has also been honored by the Joe Foss Institute for his dedication to serving America.

His Living Legends Video can be seen on YouTube: