Willie McCool’s father reflects on son’s legacy, importance of education

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:32 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Dozens of West Texas veterans joined Coronado High School students at the Willie McCool Memorial Friday morning, reflecting on the lives of two area astronauts: Rick Husband of Amarillo and Willie McCool of Lubbock.

“We just hope that America will continue to realize the value of what Willie and his colleagues on STS-107 accomplished, all the experience they did that was recovered,” says father Barry McCool, “It was a tremendously successful mission, all the way down until 16 minutes from home.”

McCool says academic success was always important to Willie; so much so, he always encouraged his siblings, and he carried that work ethic into the next chapter of his life. At the United States Naval Academy, he graduated No. 2 out of 1,661 Midshipmen in 1983. However, his long-term goals were different than what many of his peers expected.

“His desire was, once his career was over in the Navy, ‘I want to come back, and I want to become a teacher. I want to pass down what I learned to the next generation’,” his father said.

Friday’s ceremony included a 21-gun salute, balloon release (matched Coronado’s school colors), and the playing of Taps. As often as young kids dream of becoming an astronaut, McCool reiterated the trying process McCool and Husband had to endure.

“To give you an idea how difficult it is to become an astronaut, Willie had to interview twice with Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell, and some of these other famous astronauts who were interviewing him,” he said. “Rick Husband, he applied four times before he was accepted as an astronaut, so it’s a very hard field to get into.”

McCool says people shouldn’t forget the sacrifices astronauts have given, and still do today.

“Don’t forget what all our astronauts and all our military have given to this nation,” McCool said. “They’ve given everything.”