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November is Native American Heritage Month

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, the Metropolitan Airports Commission acknowledges John Herrington.‚Äč

John Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, was born September 14, 1958, and became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in space.

Herrington grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Riverton, Wyoming; and Plano, Texas, where he graduated from Plano Senior High School. Herrington would eventually earn a Bachelor's Degree in applied mathematics before receiving his commission in the United States Navy in 1984.

His path to success was not a straight one, however. His family moved numerous times, his mother dropped out of school and had her first child at the age of 17, while his father searched after a PhD in "experience."  However, his father did learn to fly, offering his son flying lessons at age 10. Herrington had dreamed about traveling in space, but never thought it would be something he could achieve.

Despite earning multiple degrees later in life, education had not been a priority for him initially. In fact, his first attempt at a higher education degree ended after just one year when he was suspended from college due to his 1.72 grade-point average.

After spending some time in the Colorado wilderness and learning he had a knack for mathematics and solving real world problems, the lure of the sky led him back to college and to the Navy, where he became an aviator, flying P3 Orions and hunting Russian submarines. He then decided he wanted to become an astronaut, which required him to earn an advanced degree in a technical field. In 1995, Herrington received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

The following are few amazing facts about how Herrington changed aviation:

  • He logged over 3,300 flight hours in more than 30 different aircrafts.
  • NASA selected Herrington to participate in the 16th shuttle mission to the International Space Station in 2002.
  • During his time in space, Herrington performed three spacewalks and honored his Native heritage by carrying six eagle feathers, a braid of sweet grass, two arrowheads and the Chickasaw flag.
  • During his military service, he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Coast Guard Meritorious, Unit Commendation, Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Ribbons (3), and various others service awards.