#VeteranOfTheDay Navy Veteran Eugene Cernan


Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Eugene “Gene” Cernan.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, a kid from a blue collar family, Gene had a dream to fly. After getting his degree in electrical engineering, he commissioned in the U.S. Navy through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Purdue University. He attended flight training and became a Naval aviator in 1958. Gene flew FJ-4 Fury and A-4 Skyhawk jets in Attack Squadrons 126 and 113. Throughout his career, Gene logged more than 5,000 hours of flying time, with 4,800 hours in jet aircraft. In addition to his flight hours, he also landed on aircraft carriers 200 times.

Upon completion of his assignment in Miramar, California, he finished his education in 1963 at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

In October 1963, Gene was selected among the third group of NASA astronauts to participate in the Gemini and Apollo Programs. He left his mark on history with three historic missions in space as the Pilot of Gemini IX, the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo X, and the Commander of Apollo XVII. After flying to the moon not once, but twice, he also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last man to have left his footprints on the lunar surface.

Among his numerous honors, the most significant are the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal with Star, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the FAI International Gold Medal for Space, induction into the U.S. Space Hall of Fame, enshrinement into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Naval Aviation’s Hall of Honor and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.

Gene passed away Jan. 16, 2017. We honor his service.

Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? You’re in luck! VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to newmedia@va.gov with as much of the information as you can put together with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating for how to create the best submission.


Melissa Heintz

– Melissa Heintz joined the VA’s Digital Media Engagement team as a public affairs specialist in October 2015. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Navy Region Hawaii Fleet and Family Readiness and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 143rd Airlift Wing.


  1. Ashley    

    These posts are such a great way to honor our Veterans. Thank you for sharing their stories.

  2. Dr. David D. Hatfield, SGM, US Army (Ret)    

    I agree with Ashley about the value of these posts that honor our Veterans by sharing their stories with us.

    Gene Cernan was a true hero to a young boy like me who was fascinated by space, and particularly by lunar exploration. I followed his career very closely and was sad to hear of his passing a few days ago. May he rest in peace.

  3. David Yuers    

    I had the honor of meeting Gene Cernan during the USO’s Tour Of Legends back in the spring of 2010. A great man. A great American. Why do you have a black and white picture of Neil Armstrong accompanying the article?

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