How does a Nation properly thank the heroes who have fought through our history to secure our American way of life? Many have learned about the welcome home, that Vietnam Veterans experienced following their sacrifices during the war, with horror and appall. Often, we hear of the thankless and destructive remarks that awaited them when they arrived on American soil. Vietnam Veterans never received the proper homecoming that today’s Soldiers experience on a regular basis. The USO of North Carolina was on a mission to pay tribute to thousands who fought and returned from this guerrilla scene with the late “Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration.”
Not only was Black Team proud to attend, it was a tremendous honor.
Upon arrival at our staging airport in Charlotte, NC thoughts of jumping were grim. It was drizzling rain with cloud ceilings overcast at 800 feet. As Golden Knights, we are limited to a 2,000 foot minimum exit altitude and there were no indications of weather improvements. After already making preparations for cancellations and our final weather call, the weather radar showed a small glimpse of hope. Several miles away, moving at 6 mph, there was a small area of decent weather moving in our direction. With any hope of completing the jump, we will always make the effort to complete it. Jump time came and the clouds still covered Charlotte Motor Speedway. Our 20-minute window slowly shrank as we continued to “Go-around,” making additional attempts to drop jumpers. We cancelled our jumping narrator, going to our back-up plan with one of our ground safety officers taking the microphone. Then we cancelled our line-up following the jump. On our 5th and final attempt, the aircraft buzzer rang out for another “Hot Target” signifying the airspace is clear. SSG Sanborn looked out the jump door and gleamed with a thankful smile. We all knew we were going to make the jump.
From 4,000 feet, Black Team filled the skies over Charlotte with black and gold. 60,000 veterans and family members looked to the sky and watched a modern military demonstration as our ram-air parachutes inflated and flew into a small landing area near their center stage.
The Golden Knights regularly thank the American Public for their continued support of the men and women in our military. This is one of the largest events we’ve been able to attend that thanks prior service members and their families. Knowing these brave Soldiers fought so hard and lost so many of their comrades and friends, just to receive additional friction from their own, is a tough thought to comprehend. Being able to take a small step in showing a proper gratitude to these great Americans was a proud moment. The USO of North Carolinaput together an amazing event and any who took part can hold their heads high for honoring these veterans in a manner they deserve.