By Brittany Skillings

Monmouth Academy

I was fortunate enough to get a hold of Mr. Roy Lee Cooke of the Rocket Boys and I asked him a couple of questions.

What was Coalwood like?

“Coalwood was a wonderful and simple place.”

Why build rockets?

“We wanted to help out our nation after the Russians beat us in to space.” I also was able to ask Mr. Homer Hickam a few questions.

Who are your personal heroes?

The greatest man I ever knew was my father. He was a brilliant intellectual who could do just about anything. He read voraciously and passed that trait on to me. During his years in Coalwood, he was probably the best mining engineer in the country, even though he didn’t have a college degree. My mother is my hero, too, because other stubborn ability to overcome obstacles in life. Besides my parents, there were many men and women in Coalwood who were heroic to my of thinking. The Rev. Richard of the Mudhole Church of the Distinct Christianity was one of them, of course and also the teachers at the Coalwood School and Big Creek High School. Miss Riley, my chemistry and physics teacher at Big Creek was truly a hero. That’s why she has become such an icon for teachers all over the world. My brother Jim is my hero, too. He has spent a lifetime mentoring boys on the gridiron and turning them into honorable men. Johnny Basso, my leader when I laid track in the mine, saved my neck more than once. He’s my hero, for certain. Many of my fellow cadets at Virginia Tech were heroic and a few even gave their lives for their country. In Vietnam, heroes were everywhere and some of them paid the ultimate the sacrifice. When I worked for NASA, my heroes were not the astronauts even though I knew most of them. The real heroes of the space agency , as far as I was concerned, were the men and women who worked so hard to make space flight possible. Most of them were never paid what they were worth, and worked impossibly long hours, yet few of them ever lost faith in the dream.

These are my heroes. You may note that, except my brother, not one of them is an athlete, nor are they politicians, movie stars, singers, or anyone who deliberately seeks to be on the national stage. I believe that nearly all these so-called “heroes” have feet of clay and, if put to a true test of courage, they would most likely disappoint.”

Who is your favorite author?

“John Steinbeck. He had a positive outlook on life and had an innate sense of the

goodness of people. He was also just a good writer who wrote about intriguing characters.”

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