There is no American civilian more deserving of a state funeral than Neil Alden Armstrong. But to hold one, as some have suggested, would go against the modest ethic that Armstrong demonstrated his entire life.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Armstrong given his life – more than his flying dozens of combat missions in Korea that interrupted his undergraduate studies at Purdue University, more than his daring test piloting in the X-15, more than being the first human being to touch the surface of another celestial body — was his complete humility. His job, as he saw it, was to push the limits of engineering and human imagination in order to advance mankind.
When Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned safely from their lunar odyssey, the world was theirs. Decades removed, it is difficult to imagine the adulation that Armstrong and his crew received during their post-flight goodwill tour. Neil Armstrong, 38 years of age, literally had the world at his feet. He had become, through a series of circumstance and preparation, perhaps the most famous man in the history of the world. He could have cashed in on his fame, on his accomplishment, or merely traded on his name for the remainder of his life. His desire? To work for NASA for a while longer and then go back home to Ohio to farm, fly, and teach aerospace engineering. That’s it.