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First Native American to Travel to Space Visits Lawton

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LAWTON Okla_ Several students got a real treat Friday, as the first Native American in space landed right here in Lawton.

Commander John B. Herrington spoke at the Comanche Nation College. His presentation is part of the Comanche Nation's drive to get more Native American children involved in math and science.

Commander Herrington was a pretty big hit among kids and adults alike. From stories about growing up in Oklahoma to describing what take-off feels like, Herrington was able to show this special group of kids that with the right amount of determination, they too can shoot for the moon.

"I dreamed about it, but I never thought I could accomplish it until way later in life," Herrington said.

With a lack of motivation in school, it seemed as if all the odds were against Wetumka Native John Herrington growing up.

"It was left up to me to figure out what I wanted to do," Herrington said. "It took some trials and tribulations to figure it out."

Two degrees and one commission later, NASA soon came knocking on his door, launching the Chickasaw into space in 2002. He said being one of the very few ever to take a walk outside the space station was exhilarating.

"I was on the very end of the space station, and it was like 220 miles to the earth," Herrington said. "I'm on the edge of this remarkable cliff, and I'm looking over the horizon of the earth thinking, ‘Well, there's nothing between me and whatever's out there.'"

Space may be considered the final frontier, but for Herrington, he knew his mission on earth was far from over. He now speaks to Native American students all over the country just like him about his remarkable career.

"I think it was definitely awesome that we get to meet somebody from our home state that's been up in space," Walters High School Student Kenneth Ingle said.

"It's cool, like an actual Native American can achieve his high goals and go to space," Riverside Indian School Student Zaneta Brooks said. "It gives me something to look up to."

Now that his legacy is sealed into history, he hopes to continue to inspire those minority students into a brave new world.

"If I can come in and share my story, my troubles, my trials, and the people that made a difference, and show them I'm an ordinary guy that's done an extraordinary thing, has had a chance to do something remarkable, they can hopefully realize they can do the same thing as well," Herrington said.

Commander Herrington said he's proud of his heritage and he's dedicated to making it even better. He's also serving as an ambassador to the Chickasaw Nation after being inducted into the tribe's hall of fame in 2002.

Commander Herrington's visit Friday to the Comanche Nation College was funded by the National Science Foundation.  

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