Blue skies and light winds are the ideal conditions for any skydive but Golden Knights do not always have those luxuries. Even in the face of questionable weather their mission still remains the same, to bring the U.S. Army to the American public. This was the first year that the Golden Knights jumped into the 2012 Never Quit Challenge. Since the event has a large Navy and Marine Corps influence the honor was previously held by the Navy’s Parachute Team the Leap Frogs. This year was different though, the event coordinators wanted the best so they called upon the Golden Knights to get the crowd pumped and ready to go.
During the Never Quit Never Challenge held on the beach in Jacksonville Florida the Knights did just that, never quit. With a tight landing area, grey skies and the winds almost at their limits the Gold Demonstration Team took on the challenge and performed remarkably for the over ten thousand spectators and competitors just before the 5K run on Saturday morning. Some of the jumpers also dug down deep and took on the 5k run just after the jump. Going into its fourth year the Never Quit Never Challenge started just a few hundred participants but has grown each year with now almost ten thousand. The mission of the Never Quit Challenge is “To educate the community on how to avoid Brain Bleeds, Stroke and Heart Disease through healthy life choices and encourage everyone to take on a Never Quit attitude and live life to its fullest.” This event was inspired by Captain Gerard Petroni of the U.S. Navy who suffered a stroke and brain bleed in November 2006, but through the support of his family and local community Gerard was able to live on for another three years until his passing in 2009.
Also while in Jacksonville the team was invited to attend a presentation from Nick Vujicic a man who was born with no arm and no legs who overcame his disabilities to become a world traveling evangelist. Nick Vujicic is also the president and CEO of a non-profit organization, Life Without Limbs. Since his first speaking engagement back when he was 19, Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions of people, speaking to a range of different groups such as students, teachers, youth, businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, and church congregations of all sizes. He has also told his story and been interviewed on various televised programs worldwide. Nick was also a main speaker who opened the Never Quit Challenge earlier in the morning boosting the competitor’s spirits just before the events.
The Bethpage Airshow held at Jones Beach New York has been a home for the Golden Knights since the show started nine years ago. Other than the Blue Angles the Golden Knights have been the only consistent act to perform there every year. The team was scheduled to jump all three days of the event but was cut short on Friday due to weather. This was the first time the Gold Demonstration Team had a jump cancelled on them but since it was only the practice/media day so the public did not miss out on the excitement. On Saturday the skies opened up and the sun warmed the beach making it a beautiful day to jump. The target area for this event is often one of the most challenging due to how close it is to the ocean. From the Air the drop zone is a small square of sand surrounded by over 200,000 people with no other place to land but in the water. It is a very intimidating area but one of the most exciting to jump into. As each jumper made his way to the target area the cheers of the people could be heard from as high as 2,000 feet making the jumpers even more excited to hit the target. Every time a pair of boots touched down the already pumped up audience became so loud that you couldn’t even hear the narrator. After the jump on Saturday the team gathered up their gear and moved through the people receiving handshakes and pats on the back from the gracious New York citizens. Sunday the team headed out to the airfield with dark grey clouds hovering low over them. The team geared up like normal while receiving on site weather reports that the weather was just as bad out at the Jones Beach area. After taking off the team was graced with good fortune when flying over show site because the clouds were lifting making it possible for the Gold Team to put on the planned full show.
At the conclusion of our demonstrations on Jones Beach, we packed our parachutes at the main entrance of the Airshow allowing each spectator in attendance to witness a pack demonstration and meet some of the jumpers. During this pack demonstration the jumpers displayed ultimate professionalism while packing in front of 50 anti-war Veterans for peace protestors. After the last performance of the weekend each demonstrator and recruiting liaison visited the Army recruiting booth from the New York City Recruiting Battalion and met with the Hofstra University ROTC cadets led by Captain Wilfred Massidas.
During this trip the team took advantage of the afternoons and went downtown to take a tour of the World Trade Center 911 memorial. The complex was more impressive to see in person than could ever be described on the internet. After leaving the remarkable memorial some of the team walked down to Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and even had the privilege of getting to take a tour of the historic building. While inside the team had a chance to walk on the trading floor, see the upstairs boardrooms and also stand on the podium where the bell is that signals the start and stop of the trading day.