The United States Army Parachute Team Golden Knights, Tandem Team jumped over thirty-five Centers of Influence in support of the US Army Recruiting Battalion Houston. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Nguyen, ROTC, and Family Life Church who hosted the facility and grounds for the spectacular event.
Brilliant blue skies, huge puffy white clouds, cool breezes, lots of hugs and sounds of laughter surrounded the towering white steeple of the Family Life Church in the enchanted town of Lake Jackson, Texas this week. Over a hundred friends, family and parishioners gathered in the church parking lot daily cheering and applauding each passenger as they flew overhead to the newly mowed green pasture.
Each morning of the camp began with numerous functions, to prepare for a safe prosperous day. It begins with the pilots checking on the upcoming weather for the day, ground control preparing the drop zone, SSG Rachel Medley meeting and greeting with the tandem passengers, video edit set up, local motorcycle police and ambulance service parked under a shade tree by the dz and the tandem team members headed over to the airport to go up in the team Twin Otter piloted by Major Craig Blackwood and Mr. David Clay to conduct a wind check load.
Casey Curry local Meteorologist with KTRX TV-13 and Director Mike Fernau took to the skies and later broadcasted their exciting fast experience with the fans that follow TV-13 daily. Casey interviewed several other tandem passengers and concluded her jump with a brief interview with her tandem master SSG Jarred Zell. Casey asked Jarred if he ever gets excited or nervous when he jumps now and he said, “I love my job and I remember how I felt the first time I made my first jump through you! Every time I take someone on a tandem jump the energy and excitement each one shows, excites me and makes me feel good to share this once in a life time experience with them.”
Superintendent H.D. Chambers, Baytown Police Chief David Alford, Justice of Peace Edie Connelly, Prairie View A&M University Coach Gabe Northern, USO Director Liz Vallette, Pastors of Family Life Craig Taylor, Tiffany Lunsford, and Chris Rees are some of the people which were nominated to make a tandem parachute jump in appreciation for all of the time, dedication and support to the community and the military.
Before jumping, Ashley Kamrath, Vice President of Marketing with Military Relocation Support said, “There are times in your life when you need to be cool, calm and collect, but this just isn’t one of them. I am so excited!” Approximately twenty minutes later, following her tandem jump she said,”This was the coolest thing in the world, it was so much fun, and I want to do it again. I’ve got to text mama and tell her I’m ALIVE!!!”
While sitting in the classroom chatting with her new found friends, Chrissy Mafrige from Sam Houston State said, “Thank you so much this was so great, I’m a zip line junkie and now I think I may have to trade in for a parachute.”
Erendira Jones sponsors a scholarship in honor of Charles William Jones. She was one of the first jumpers today and said she was nervous and had butterflies in her stomach, but this was one of many things on her “bucket list.” Erendira and her husband John patiently waited all day long congratulating and applauding all her fellow jumpers as the day went on.
Edie Connelly has been the Justice of Peace of Montgomery County, Texas for over twenty four years. She is a perfect, dainty lady with a surprisingly immeasurable background. She was a former Sheriff Deputy, special crimes detective, a judo instructor and judge. I asked her had she ever done anything like this and she said, “I fly through the air doing judo with my husband quite frequently.” Both her husband and son have static line jumps, but now she has beaten them both free falling from 13,500 feet above the earth. As soon as she landed she said,”Can I do it again?”
Edie brought a gift to the team to be placed in the Museum back at Fort Bragg. Over twenty-five years ago a local Recruiter brought her a Golden Knight Mouse Pad that she has kept and used for all these years. She asked if we had one and when she found out we didn’t, she donated it to the team as a keepsake.
Pastor Craig Taylor said a few weeks ago, during a sermon that he had told his congregation that he would never go skydiving out of an airplane and the very next day he was contacted about the team utilizing his parish for this camp. Today he took the plunge of faith with God and placed his life in the hands of Soldiers who protect our country.
Unfortunately, in today’s society the vast majority of people are so tied up in their own lives that they find little or no time to give back to others. The Tandem Orientation Program was developed to in some way give back to Soldiers and Centers of Influences that give so much to make America a better place for us all.
After spending a week at Lake Jackson I found out why they say it is enchanted. It is not the land; it is the phenomenal people who live here. All of the Pastors, employees (especially Terri Kloecker), and parishioners of Family Life welcomed us with open arms, the Airport accommodated Team Six every way possible, Crosswinds Café provided excellent meals of nourishment and hospitality, LTC Nguyen, Mr. Bill Grimes, M&RA and all of the Recruiters (assisted with tandem shagging) hosted and provided remarkable support to make this camp a one of a kind event for the Golden Knights and Centers of Influence to make it a memorable event.