On Wednesday, July 18, 2012 The Golden Knights Tandem Team Leader, SFC “world famous” Joe Jones stood in front of a room full of anxious, soon-to-be tandem skydivers at the Golden Knights training drop zone in Laurinburg, NC. Darcy Grimes, the North Carolina Teacher of the Year 2012-2013 from Bethel Elementary, sat among the crowd as she listened to Team Leader, Joe Jones, inform the small crowd of the basic safety essentials needed for their immediate future. Next, the crowd sat on the edge of their seats as they watched the morale-boosting video montage of The Golden Knights in action. The video, set to an adrenaline-pumping Disturbed track, includes jumps with celebrities such as: Bill Murray, Vince Vaughn, and Geraldo Rivera. After viewing the exhilarating video, the audience is asked to sign their life away. Gasps fill the room as they receive their last instructions: “Your feet will be right on the edge of the door.” Filled with excitement and anticipation, the crowd stands up and begins to make their way to the hanger.
Darcy Grimes, along with others, began to suit up and meet the Tandem Team member that she would soon be trusting with her life. The crowd made their way out of the hanger into the scorching hot, but beautiful weather so that they could witness the Golden Knights in action. After patiently awaiting her turn for the thrilling experience, it was finally time. Right before boarding the plane, Darcy looked at the camera and said: “ Thank you so much for this opportunity—I’m so excited!” The plane then began to ascend, offering the anxious jumpers a new perspective of the ground they were just standing on. As reality began to set in, Joe Jones looks to the camera and says: “I’m about ready to throw a teacher out of a plane!” Shortly after, Darcy Grimes put her feet on the edge of the plane, and dove right into open air, and an experienced that would stick with her for a lifetime. As Darcy landed safely to the ground, she flexed her muscles and shouted: “I am Army strong!”
Members of the United States Army Parachute Team Golden Knights, Gold Demonstration Team made a home run with fans Thursday at the Chicago White Sox, US Cellular Field with a surprise jump before the first pitch.
SSG Tom Melton advanced the show to assure everything was in order to have a flawless demo weekend. SSG Melton accompanied by Mr. Speros Batistaos, CEO of SSCA presented a baton flown and passed in midair by the Golden Knights to the Manager of the Chicago White Sox Head Coach Robin Ventura.
Later in the day SSG Melton and team mates presented the White Sox and Ms. Nichole Manning a historical lithograph of a 5 stack formation over Homestead, AFB which was taken this year at winter training.
SGT George Perez just returned from school and pulled ground along with CSM Royce Manis and SSG Shelby Bixler who just returned from school and pulled upper winds on the top of the stadium.
SSG Kevin Presgraves flew the Prisoner Of War (POW) flag right into center field before thousands of cheering fans. He took the microphone and headed over to the front of the stadium and narrated as the rest of the seven jumpers landed in centerfield with a dynamic demonstration.
One jumper trailed the famous White Sox logo flag and another jumped in the black and white Vote for Peavey flag as everyone shouted and clapped. It was a beautiful day with a magnificent performance by SFC JD Berentis and members of the Gold Team.
Though it was a steamy hot 100-degree day, fans didn’t seem to mind at all. The thrill and excitement of the fans resonated throughout the stand. Following the team demonstration, the jumpers gathered their parachutes and gear and many fans hollered out to the team, Thank you for your service, job well done.
The Golden Knights proudly and humbly memorialize Jonathan Tagle with the letters JT flown in free fall above Laurinburg NC. Home of the Golden Knights. The initials he was famously known for. He was more than just a skydiver. JT was an inspiration to all of those that put on a parachute. He was a professional canopy pilot, a pioneer and an ambassador for a country in a discipline that has no margin of error. One which is not for the feint of heart. Flying parachutes at speeds nearing 90 miles per hour inches from objects and from the ground. His smile was infectious and his attitude was glorious. In an individual sport he was one of my biggest adversaries. With his small stature, but his larger than life personality which was only matched by his incredible talent. I have been teammates with him several times as we represented the United States in international competition. He pushed me to want to be a better pilot. His mere presence made everyone perform to the best of their abilities, because if they didn’t he was unbeatable. He was, several times over a National Champion and a World Champion. We were competitors together we were competitors against one another, we were team mates but most of all we were friends. With a heavy heart and my deepest condolences to his family, his friends and fellow teammates on the Performance Designs Factory Team, I say good bye to a true friend.
Blue Skies JT
(written with deepest simpathy and warmest regards by Greg Windmiller)