Fifteen excited people ventured through the gloomy clouds in hope of experiencing the thrill of a lifetime. The room was full of chattering and laughter as team members talked to people throughout the room waiting for everyone to arrive.
SFC Joe Jones began the tandem training, showed the wavier and gave an in-depth explanation about the tandem equipment that would be used during their personal tandem jump. Each individual tandem team member was introduced and gave their own personal Army story.
Unfortunately the ceiling stayed low and rains moved in and the jumps had to be delayed until the next day.
Tuesday morning the land was covered with dense fog and finally the sun broke through to form a glorious day for Gold Star Family members, which celebrated and faced fears with relief filled tears, joy and laughter.
Craig Belt was here last year with his wife Barbara but couldn’t jump due to the weight limit. Craig was determined to jump and reached a goal of losing 75lbs just so he could jump this year.
Then the 3rd ROTC Brigade Black Hawk Centers of Influence began their journey to 13,500 feet. Fourteen very different people from different walks of life and ages joined into a unified team to share the Army Strong Experience.
Erin Levschel an English Teacher was a bundle of nerves and said, “I am totally petrified, and I can’t believe I am doing this, I must be crazy.” You could hear her screaming from the moment she left the plane. When she landed she jumped up and down shouting I did it, I did it!
Wednesday morning was a majestic puffy cloud, blue-sky day
Juan Velasquez said, “I’m really scared, but want to do this for my brother.”
The whole Weiss family Andrew, AJ and mom Julianne attended the Gold Star workshop. AJ said, that “he looked up after exiting the plane and never in his life did he think he would see his mom and skydive above her!”
Julianne a teeny petite, bright blue-eyed mom said, I am ready to touch the sky in an interview prior to her jump. She glided through the brilliant blue clouds and stood up with a soft tiptoe landing. All of a sudden she was springing up and down all over the field all the way to her Gold Star Family support team, and Andrew said, “she’s my little energizer bunny!”
Following the Gold Star Family jumps, COI’s from Chicago ,Indianapolis, Great Lakes, Minneapolis and Milwaukee Recruiting Battalions were anxiously awaiting for their name to be called from the manifest.
Dr. Randall Allen, (SFC Retired), USA Olympic Archery Coach and Judge, Tech Prep. Coordinator for Bay College said that it was one of the most awesome experiences of his life. Following his jump he handed out a RAK (random act of kindness) card, and arrows as a memento from his Army Strong Experience.
Honorable Ben Hodgin, Mayor of Hartford City said his experience was fantastic. When Ben was given his tandem certificate he said, “This was not just Army Strong, This was Army Cool!”
Mark Warner Executive Dean for Education at the Mayo Clinic is no stranger to the Army Experience and said that he thoroughly enjoyed his jump and was grateful for the opportunity. His son is a pilot with the Air Forces’ Thunderbirds, His brother is a Jag Officer stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, the home of the Golden Knights.