When U.S. Army veteran John Reiss Jr. got a request to make a presentation
to retired military officers in Yuma, Ariz., he had no idea it would blossom
into a two-day, multi-subject event for potentially hundreds of people.

The request came to Reiss because he is a Solar System Ambassador, one of a
nationwide network of more than 200 volunteers coordinated by JPL. The
ambassadors lead public programs about space exploration.

On Oct. 17 and 18, Reiss, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and a colleague, Jim Ashley,
will be making six presentations at various locations in the Yuma area,
including Arizona Western College, the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station and the
Army’s Yuma Proving Ground. Commanding Officer Col. Mark E. Condra will
introduce Reiss at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station.

Reiss will describe the Mars Odyssey and Cassini-Huygens missions. Mars
Odyssey, which will arrive at Mars on Oct. 24 Universal time (Oct. 23
Pacific time), will take measurements of the red planet’s atmosphere and
collect images to help scientists better understand its composition.
Cassini-Huygens is on its way to Saturn and Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Ashley will present information about asteroids and comets that orbit near
Earth. He will also give tips for viewing next month’s Leonid meteor shower.
Ashley is associate director of Minor Planet Research, Inc., an
Arizona-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to discovering near-Earth
asteroids and comets.

Retired officer Robert Perrine, program director for the Yuma chapter of the
Retired Officers Association, took on the challenge from his colleagues to
“spice up” their monthly meetings by suggesting a space presentation.
Perrine contacted JPL’s Kay Ferrari, coordinator of the Solar System
Ambassadors Program, who suggested Reiss.

“We select ambassadors from all across the country to serve as outreach
extensions of our missions and John exemplifies what this is by sharing with
his local Arizona community,” Ferrari said. “It is an especially important
time to visit the Marine base and John, as a Vietnam vet, understands this.
He is continuing to do this because he understands what military personnel
and their families face.”

Capitalizing on the varied background of other retired officers, Perrine
also discovered a great interest in having presentations elsewhere in the
Yuma area.

Reiss feels what he described as a “kindred spirit” with the Yuma Marines
and their families. As America’s leaders call for the country to return to
normalcy, Reiss believes this is a step in the right direction and,
hopefully, an uplifting and welcome diversion for families of personnel who
may be facing deployment overseas.