North Texas

North Texas Man Recalls His Small Role During a Big Week in History

Stepping into a corner of Mike Mullins' family room in Bedford is like stepping back in time.

"Oh gosh, I've been around the world," Mullins said.

But the one place that's most significant in his mind is an "X" in the Pacific Ocean that he added to his globe. It marks the place where Apollo 11 splashed down on July 24, 1969.

"I call myself Forrest Gump sometimes," Mullins laughed. "Because I've done so many things, been blessed to have done a lot of stuff in my life."

One of those things was being on the USS Hornet when the crew helped recover the astronauts and the Apollo 11 capsule after their trip to the moon in 1969.

"I'll just say I was blessed," Mullins said of his front row seat to history. "I was 20 years old in the Navy and I was a Leading Seaman onboard the USS Hornet."

Mullins said thinking about that time still gives him chills.

"It just made you proud to be an American," he said.

He has a piece of the ship's deck hanging on his wall next to photos of a time when America had "the right stuff."

"I was 30 feet back when Nixon was talking to the astronauts," Mullins said. "My cool little part of the story was when they stepped off the helicopter and made contact with the earth the first time, they put their hands on these steps coming down from the helicopter. Well, I made the banner that you see on TV."

Mullins was still on the USS Hornet when the ship helped with the Apollo 12 recovery.

"This is the foil off the Apollo 12 capsule," Mullins said, showing a small box with a 2-inch piece of foil. "This went around the moon."

Mullins said today we have a bit of a "been there, done that" attitude about space travel.

"But let's see what the journey holds here in the next few years, where we go, and again hopefully that enthusiasm will pick up again, I'm sure," said Mullins, who said he wouldn't pass up a trip to the moon. "Absolutely! I'd do it in a heartbeat!"

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