When I was invited to skydive with the U.S. Army Golden Knight parachute team, I didn’t hesitate to say “Yes!”. Like so many people, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so why not learn from the world’s best? My day began at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Ill. Team leader Mike Elliot showed us the equipment and told us what to expect up in the sky. He’ll be handling my tandem jump. What an honor – he also handled the skydive for former President George H.W. Bush.
After suiting up and strapping on all the tandem gear, the Golden Knights Fokker plane takes us to an altitude of 13,500 feet. Yikes, that’s about 2.5 miles! I think my heart actually skipped a beat when they rolled up the door and I could see directly down to the ground. Within seconds, Mike has me at the edge of the plane as I think to myself, “Holy #%*@, we’re about to fall out of an airplane!” But he is strapped to my backside and I know I am in perhaps THE most capable hands in the military.
Other Golden Knights jump ahead of us to videotape and photograph. Mike pushes off soon after and the first few seconds literally takes my breath away. It happens to a lot of people so Mike reminds me to breathe. Of course, he’s telling me as we’re falling through the sky at 120 miles per hour! The feeling is pure exhilaration and amazement. I can’t help looking down to take in the clouds and beautiful landscape but the guys keep telling me to look up so they can take a decent picture. Before I know it, we’re going THROUGH a cloud. Unlike going through it on an airplane, you can actually feel the moisture.
Mike pulls the chute and we go shooting back up as the wind catches it. I look waaaay up in order to see it unfurled. What a rush of patriotism to see the black and gold chute with the “ARMY” logo. I look over and see the other “ARMY” chutes around me. No kidding, these guys are like superheroes. I am so amazed by what they do for our country. Thank you to the U.S. Army Golden Knights!!! (See my Fox Chicago report here.)
A friend inspired me to dedicate my skydive to www.remind.org. This is a charity founded by Lee and Bob Woodruff, the ABC News anchor who suffered a serious brain injury while working in Iraq. Remind.org helps soldiers with brain injuries. Please consider donating to this amazing organization.
As the Golden Knights would sign off… Blue Skies.