Legionnaire in space, Kenneth Ham, has homecoming at former high school

When astronaut Kenneth Ham went into deep space in June 2008 on board the shuttle Discovery, he took his American Legion membership card with him. He shared his “American Legion card in space” with well-wishers during a Sept. 8 homecoming at his alma mater, L. Johnson Regional High School in Clark, N.J.

Ham, who served in the U.S. Navy and rose to the rank of commander, graduated from high school in 1983.

At the “welcome home” event, Ham talked about his journey and gave the famed Legion membership card to fellow Legionnaire William Duffy, who originally suggested that Ham take it into space. A photo of Ham holding the card by the Discovery’s hatch window was presented to the school, along with a certificate of authenticity NASA issued, recognizing the membership card as part of the mission.

The card accounted for one of Ham’s 10 personal items. He also took along one of Lance Armstrong’s yellow jerseys from his record-setting seventh Tour De France victory, a Buzz Lightyear figurine from the movie Toy Story, and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s backup jersey from Super Bowl XLII.

While Ham was in space, students at L. Johnson Regional High School wore T-shirts that had Ham’s mission name – “STS-124” – printed on them.

Ham is scheduled to become the Discovery’s overall commander in May 2010.