This autobiography of Col. Joe Kittinger will go in amongst the books of my other heroes.
My heroes or people I look up to or aspire without hope to be are not athletes or politicians, comedians or actors or Internet age icons. My heroes are those who live without fear (or at least is able to suppress whatever innate fears they have) in order to gobble up life at its best. Ernest Hemingway, John Fitch, Sebastian Junger, and Major Robert Crisp amongst others fit this bill.
Add another one to this list.
Take a look at a short list of Mr. Kittenger's accomplishments in no particular order:
Highest parachute jump ever, from 102,800 ft.
First man to exceed the sound barrier without air or space vehicle (714 mph during freefall)
First person to solo across the Atlantic in a helium balloon
Shot down a North Vietnamese MIG
11 months as a POW after seeing his F4 shot down in Vietnam during which he was tortured extensively
Volunteered for three tours in Vietnam
Flew 483 combat missions
Truly Barnstormed across the country
Hunted alligators in Florida and Cape Buffalo in Africa
Flew 93 separate aircraft accruing over 16,800 flying hours
Was a prolific test pilot
Assisted in the design and implementation of safety systems for the space program and Air Force
This is only a partial list and doesn't include many of his civilian accomplishments nor many of his military adventures/actions.
Come Up and Get Me is a fantastic account of Mr. Kittinger's life. Written with candor and humility Mr. Kittinger doesn't pull punches in dealing with his superiors in and outside of the military. It goes into depth regarding many of the programs he was involved with and reveals numerous items of note regarding the early space program, including the fact that officials were informed of the danger of a pressurized oxygen environment before the tragedy that occurred with Apollo I pre-launch test.
The book is well worth your time if you are looking for the antithesis of modern America and hope for what lies deep within the best of us.