Rename Newark Liberty Airport for Buzz Aldrin
How about lifting the nation's spirits, naming Newark Liberty Airport for native son Buzz Aldrin? As an older fighter pilot, I like the idea. Aldrin, now 91, walked on the Moon. He was also a distinguished aviator and comes from New Jersey. He apparently took his first flight in New Jersey at the age of two, if biographies have it right.
As a symbol of American can-do, Aldrin is a walking monument. He reminds us of what is best about us: the undeterred American character of perseverance, reaching for the stars, taking on risks not for personal glory, but for opportunities that await this great nation if we just try. Buzz showed the U.S. (and the world) what we can do when we come together and work toward a shared goal. Like all of us, Buzz is human, but he is also historical. He is someone we are proud of.
The renaming would remind Americans who we are, what we are made of, that we "Come in Peace for All Mankind," that aviation and space exploration do matter, along with patriotism and putting the nation first.
The idea has been circulating for years and generally has found wide support, but initiative is always the issue. But why? He grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, and as a native son, he played on the state championship football team and was inducted into New Jersey's Hall of Fame years ago. Buzz truly has a deep and special connection to New Jersey and warrants having a home state airport bear his name. So where better than at an airport with national and international reach to cement New Jersey's connection to one of America's true space pioneers?
Aldrin grew up flying. Long before his record-breaking Gemini 12 spacewalk and footsteps on the Moon, he was a combat fighter pilot, achieving two aerial victories over Korea.
Renaming Newark Liberty Airport for Aldrin — as Marshall, Reagan, and others were named for pathfinders — might add luster to the metropolitan area; honor New Jersey's role in human space exploration; remind people that aviation is in America's blood; and reaffirm our commitment to science, aeronautics, human space exploration, and the courage of individuals to seize new ground and take risks and leave footprints.
One wonders if this may be the moment, reading that Aldrin just donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Salvation Army for COVID-19 relief. Aldrin was and is there for America. America needs to remember those who define the word, have and always will. What better place to begin than naming Newark Liberty Airport after someone who personifies aviation and adventure, love of home and willingness to risk for it, real imagination, dedication, and our pioneering place in space?
Kent D. Johnson is a former F-15E Strike Eagle and A-10 Warthog fighter pilot, and a former political-military adviser on the staff of the secretary of the Air Force and senior U.S. adviser to the commandant of the Royal Air Force think-tank.
Image: National Archives.