Archive for the ‘Skydiving with the Golden Knights’ Category

Another Miami Dolphin Cheerleader Jumps!

February 24, 2011

Several of the  2011 Miami Dolphin cheerleaders recently jumped with the Golden Knights in Homestead, Florida. Shannon, loved her experience so much that she sent me the following story. Although it doesn’t describe her jump experience in great detail, it  will give you an idea of the professionalism of the Golden Knights. Thanks Shannon, for sharing your story.

The Golden Knights is a group of incredibly talented gentlemen. I expected them to be rigid and dry Army men, hardly cracking a smile, but they are the exact opposite. Yes, they are professional and serious when needed. After all, they were about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane thousands of feet above the ground with us strapped to their stomachs. But all rules and precautions aside, these men are comforting and inspiring. One of the demonstration team members, Howie Sanborn, even let me help him pack up his parachute before his next jump. To take me and put me on the same level as him and trust me to put together the one thing slowing his 120 mph fall instilled a great feeling of confidence in me. It’s as if Howie wanted to share something very special to him with us and because of that, I learned to do something that most will never do in their life. For Howie to not even question a complete stranger, said great deals about his character and how much he values sharing with others what he loves so much.

I had a difficult time because of my fear of heights, but somehow my instructor, Aaron Figel, and my photographer, Jared Zell, made me completely forget about those fears. They eased any worries by simply making me laugh nonstop. They joked and told stories and made every step of the day full of pure and natural fun. It shows when someone loves what they do for a living – in fact, it makes all the difference. At one point, somewhere about 8,000 feet in the air, Jared looked to me pointed out the wide-open plane door and smiled as he opened his arms and said “Welcome to my office.” What an incredible reality.

These men, the best in their unusual line of work, have trained and auditioned for this career that they love so dearly. They are blessed to be able to do what they love the most every day of their lives, and they know it. The don’t take a single moment or opportunity for granted and live each second to fullest, unlike many other people I know. With every laugh and joke it is clear how much they are grateful to be where they are and enjoy every second of it. It is that energy that can be felt throughout the day, on the ground and in the air. It is that energy that was comforting and fun. It made me feel as though we had known them for years. This day, spent with them, has taught me great things about myself and my life. I will never forget them and the impact they have had on me will be with me for years to come.

What an honor it was to jump out of a plane with the Golden Knights.

Cheers! Shannon


Skydiving is Lovelier, the Second Time Around!

October 26, 2010

Thought it would be fun to compare photos from my first skydive, at an unnamed jump center in Massachusetts, to a few from my ‘golden opportunity’ in Florida.

Here I am exiting a plane in in the skies of MA in June of 2007. Note my tandem instructor is not wearing a hat or a jumpsuit.  In fact, it doesn’t even look as if he is wearing a parachute. Looks more like a backpack to me.  That plane was so rickety, I remember thinking my odds for a safe landing were much better jumping out of it than attempting to land in it.

The shot above is of me exiting the Golden Knight’s plane in Homestead, FL on March 1, 2010. My tandem master, SFC Mike Elliott is wearing all the appropriate gear. More important, his parachute looks like a parachute, not a back-to-school supply. My heart was not in my throat during the short  ride on the Golden Knight’s plane  to 13,500 ft. Of course I was nervous but it was the good kind of nervous.

Here I am free-falling in MA. At least I was given a helmet to wear but no gloves. The navy, short-sleeved, cotton jumpsuit made me feel more like I should be pumping gas at a Sunoco station than jumping out of a plane.  I recall it was quite chilly at 13,000 feet so my tandem instructor’s head must have been freezing. Perhaps he didn’t wear a helmet so his earrings would be visible.  Because my comfort level was in the negative numbers, my eyes remained  tightly shut during the entire free-fall. I saw NOTHING. All I did was pray that I wouldn’t leave my children without a mother. Again, please note the ‘backpack’ which, I might add,  looks poorly packed. If I had seen pictures like this before my jump, I would have surely stayed in bed that morning.

The jumpsuits provided by the Golden Knights are top quality and actually designed to help the skydiver fly.  For me, it was a huge bonus that the jumpsuit’s ‘cool factor’ is off -the-charts high. I was very grateful for the heavy duty gloves which offered good protection against the wind. Believe me, when you reach speeds of 120 mph during the free-fall, there is a lot of wind. Once again, the parachute looks professional, is neatly packed and appears as if it actually might open. SFC Elliott is wearing the appropriate head gear and I am fairly certain there are no earrings underneath. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Thanks to the Golden Knights and SFC Elliott, my comfort level was high enough that I not only kept my eyes wide open but even managed a pathetic little ‘thumbs up’ sign.

What was I thinking in MA? I didn’t even know this guy’s name.  Why in the world did I put my life in his hands?  I realize now that I basically jumped to impress people. I wanted people to say, “Wow, you skydived!”  Talk about immature. I was a fool. A psychologist would have a field day with that one.

Why did I jump the second time?  I did it for myself.  All I wanted was to keep my eyes open and enjoy every moment. Having witnessed firsthand the professionalism of the Golden Knights and knowing that safety is their utmost concern, I was able to achieve my goal.

My two skydiving experiences couldn’t have been more different. Hands down, skydiving was lovelier and SAFER, the second time around.

Steve Foxman

September 23, 2010

Widener University Registrar Steve Foxman, a student pilot who has always been fascinated with flying,  was recently invited to jump with the Golden Knights. He didn’t hesitate saying ‘yes’, even though he is unable to look down while standing on a second floor balcony.

Steve and SFC Mike Elliott a/k/a my tandem master....oh and President Bush's too. Photo courtesy of Golden Knights.

“I’m not a risk taker at all”, he confessed.  He accepted the invitation because Ten years down the road, I don’t want to have regrets. If someone asks me ‘what is it like to skydive’, I’ll know.” The fact that former President Bush jumped with the Golden Knights at the age of 85 helped to convince Steve it was an opportunity he should seize.

Steve might not be breathing but he still managed to smile. Photo courtesy of Golden Knights.

Steve said “I don’t know if I enjoyed the free fall; I didn’t really have time.” He found it difficult to breath while free falling and explained, “The air was sucked right out of my lungs.”  In looking at the picture above, I noticed that Steve’s mouth is open. Perhaps had he kept his mouth shut, the air would not have been sucked out. Just sayin’…. While Steve didn’t quite enjoy the free fall, he would do it again in a heartbeat but only with the Golden Knights.

Happy to be back on the ground. Photo courtesy of Agent 99.

Steve still feels the ‘skydiving high’ whenever he watches his jump video. He recalled, ” After jumping, I felt as if I could do anything. It was a different kind of strong.  It was ‘Army Strong’.”  I wonder if he’s tried looking over a second floor balcony yet.

Romance on the DZ

September 6, 2010

For some reason this was posted between two old stories. I have no idea why and no idea how to fix it. So, here it is again.

If a prize had been given at Lakehurst Naval Air Station to the skydiver with the most spectators, it would have gone, hands down, to Carmine ‘Chops’ Czapla, a police officer with the Department of Defense.  He’s an extremely likable guy so it’s not surprising that he has so many friends. What’s surprising though is that they were all willing to take time off from work to watch him jump. The reason?  Unbeknownst to Chop’s longterm girlfriend Jessica Ruzicka, he was planning to propose marriage as soon as he landed at the drop zone.

Chops with SSG Joe Jones~Photo courtesy of Golden Knights

Chops had been planning to propose to Jessica for a couple of months but was waiting for the perfect moment.  When he learned of the skydiving opportunity just the previous day, he knew it would be theperfect time to propose. “I wanted it to be something Jessica would never forget,” he said. Always one to love a bit of drama myself, I was quite taken with Chops’ plan.

SSG Joe Jones seemed to take his time soaring through the air with Chops as Beyonce’s lyrics “If you like her then you better put a ring on it. If you like it then you better put a ring on it. If you like her then you better put a ring on it”  reverberated around the drop zone. Jessica seemed to be the only person at Lakehurst who was completely clueless.

Photo Courtesy of Golden Knights

Upon landing, Chops immediately dropped to one knee as someone slipped him a ring. (Smart man not to have had a ring in his pocket during the free fall.) While none of us on the sidelines could hear anything, Chop’s and Jessica’s body language spoke volumes. Cheers and applause erupted when it was obvious her response was ‘yes’.

I asked Chops if skydiving was something he always wanted to try and was surprised when he quickly answered, “NO WAY!” It turns out he is deathly afraid of heights. He was scared out of his mind just at the thought of jumping let alone going through with it. He only jumped so the proposal would be something Jessica would remember forever. “I NEVER would have jumped just for the fun of it,” he added.


Being too caught up in his romantic story, I never got around to asking Chops his thoughts on the jumpsuit.  I wonder if it played a role in Jessica’s positive response.

It was finally time for me to pop my question, “Which team do you like better, the Red Sox or the Yankees?” Chops proudly, yet sweetly said, “I’m a diehard Yankee fan.”  Of course his answer annoyed me big time, but he proved to me that all Yankee fans are not obnoxious. Congratulations Chops and Jessica.

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The Wimpy Kid Jumped!

August 18, 2010

Jesse Dawson an afternoon-drive -time dj for a top 40 station called 103 CIR in Beckley, West Virginia is very proud of her older brother who is in the Army.  Consequently, she tries helping out Army recruiters whenever possible. “The recruiters are all like older brothers to me”, she exuded. When one of the recruiters recently invited Jesse to jump with the Golden Knights, she thought “Oh my God, I don’t even ride roller-coasters.” Not only does she not ride roller-coasters she proclaims to be “the biggest wimp in the world”.  So why did she do it? “I was shamed into jumping,” she admitted. All the recruiters told Jesse  if she didn’t jump, she would regeret it for the rest of her  life. But guess what? None of the recruiters had ever jumped! Talk about wimps.

Let’s move on to jumpsuits. The first jumpsuit Jess tried on was skin tight. The second one was too big. Unfortunately, unlike Goldilocks and me, Jesse didn’t find the one that was just right. Jesse uttered comments like “most unflattering suit” and “stupid harness”, thoughts which never entered my mind.  Were we talking about the same jumpsuit?  Regardless of the fit, Jesse decided, “I’ll rock this jumpsuit and helmet”. Talk about a good attitude. I would have called off the jump.

It was 87 degrees so the door of the plane remained open while they cruised to jump altitude.  Jesse sat facing that open door, making her seatbelt tighter and tighter as they climbed higher and higher. I can’t stress how unnerving it is to see an open door in the cabin of a plane. Just thinking about it makes me get goosebumps.  Jesse  stayed relatively calm until she exited the door and thought, “Oh crap, I just jumped out of a plane.”

"This is that 'oh crap' moment."

“When I got over that feeling,” she explained, “I could enjoy the experience.”

"Pretend thumbs up!" With SGT Joe Abeln

Upon landing, she immediately commenced giving the recruiters grieve as she should. “I did it and you didn’t”, she chanted.  Jesse took great pleasure in announcing, “The wimpy kid jumped.”  She went through the rest of the day asking everyone, “what did you do today?'”

“It is an amazing experience that is almost too hard to explain to people. I was able to share my experience on-air with my listeners the same day I jumped. To this day, the #1 question I get asked when I am out on location for work is “did you really jump?”


Come On Get Happy!

July 6, 2010

Danny  Bonaduce is a radio personality, professional wrestler, and comedian, but most of you will remember him from his role as the middle son, Danny Partridge, in the television series The Partridge Family. After the series ended, Danny who was then only in his late teens, began abusing drugs.  This abuse eventually led to a period of homelessness. Danny would greet autograph-seeking fans then return to the car behind Grauman’s Chinese Theater where he lived.

Danny is front and center.

Danny Bonaduce arrived at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in a big bus with his face plastered on the side. The first thing he said to me in that very scruffy voice was, ” It’s very embarrassing to drive around in a big bus with your face plastered on the side.” It was immediately evident that Danny likes to talk. He seemed perfectly content to stand in one place, happily answering any questions while posing for pictures and signing autographs.

Since so many people were trying to get to Danny, I only had time to ask him why he wanted to skydive. He told me that four years earlier while on a talk show,  guests were talking about missed opportunities in life. One guest said she wished she had tried becoming a ballerina. Another guest said he wished he had pursued being a body builder. Danny said, When it was my turn I said that I never got to serve my country.” He was very serious, very sincere. I was surprised and touched by Danny’s response when he added, I would do whatever the military asks.”

You can see how the skydiver, in this case Danny, has to sit on the jump master's lap, SSG Joe Abeln, while the harnesses are connected. Danny looks a bit concerned which is very normal. Photo courtesy of the Golden Knights.

Danny didn’t have much more  to say about the skydiving opportunity. It was clearly something he was doing only because someone in the military had asked. Period. End of story.

Notice how the videographer ever so casually hangs off the side of the plane!!! Photo courtesy of the Golden Knights.

Danny loved talking about his radio show and fans though, explaining that he never says ‘no’ to anyone asking for an autograph because “the fans pay my salary.”  He scoffs at celebrities who shun their fans, begging for privacy.

Bonaduce and SSG Abeln exiting the plane. Photo courtesy of Golden Knights.

Keep in mind that these people are dropping at a speed over 100 miles per hour. Photo courtesy of the Golden Knights.

Feeling Army Strong after the jump.

When I caught up with Danny at the drop zone after his jump he said “The Golden Knights couldn’t have been more  compassionate. From the van ride to the jump they were truly considerate and professional.”

Danny swiftly disappeared inside to remove his jumpsuit before I could even ask what he thought about wearing something so ridiculously cool. I guess the fact that he wanted to remove it so quickly says something. Perhaps it says he was just eager to climb aboard the bus with his face plastered on the side.

All kidding aside, the military has a very loyal supporter in Danny Bonaduce.

Miami Dolphins Cheerleader, Samantha

June 21, 2010

In Samantha’s own words……….

13,500 feet off the ground and going down 120 mph with the Army Golden Knights – what an amazing experience! The night before, I could barely sleep and could not even imagine myself jumping out of a plane. I was nervous and extremely anxious, but that all changed as soon as we met the Army’s Golden Knights.

Samantha, second from right, on jump day. (There's definitely some magic to the jumpsuit for I am certain I looked as young as these girls when I wore one. NS)

They quickly made us feel very comfortable and proved to us that they are the very best at what they do. My adrenaline started pumping and I was ready to go! Everything after that is an adventure that everyone must experience themselves.

Samantha on game day. ( OK, this is depressing. Even with lots of magic AND lots of surgery, this uniform would never work for me. The color is all wrong. NS)

Overall, skydiving with the Golden Knights was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Thank you so much, Golden Knights !


Please click on link in blogroll  on right for Miami Dolphins cheerleader’s skydiving video.

Miami Dolphins Cheerleader, Vicky

June 1, 2010

In Vicky’s own words…..

Some experiences in life are saved in our minds as breathtaking memories. I have a hand full of goals to accomplish before I’m 20 years old. Skydiving with the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team definitely transformed from my list of goals, to my list of accomplishments this year.

Jump Day!

There are no words to explain the moment when we jumped out of the plane together. It was an amazing feeling and I’m so glad I got to share such a wonderful moment with my Miami Dolphins Cheerleader’s and The Golden Knights parachute team.

Game Day!

Game Day!

I will always thank them from the bottom of my heart!

Miami Dolphins Cheerleader, 2009-2011

“My Body Couldn’t Catch Up with My Thoughts”

May 23, 2010

Of all the skydivers I watched at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, Laura Marcos, a high school student counselor at New Jerseys’s Union City High School, impressed me the most. It’s normal for first time skydivers to be a bit nervous. Laura however, was not just a bit nervous; she was scared-to-death nervous.

You can see the fear on her face during the classroom session.

Laura finds it ironic that when it comes to being spontaneous and taking personal risks such as changing careers or confronting people in difficult situations,  her friends often look up to her as a role model. Jumping out of a plane though, was a completely different story. Laura explained, “I have always felt that in the landscape of love and loss, there is more than enough adventure on the ground,” she continued, “I’ve never felt a need to free fall out of a plane.” If the school’s Army recruiter, SSG Edgelbert Alvarado, had given her more than one minute to think about his skydiving offer before she had to sign on the dotted line, she just might never have said ‘yes’.

SSG Edgelbert Alvarado

It’s true, SSG Alvarado is a sneaky guy. When he heard me talking about the Red Sox, he quipped, “I’m a Boston fan.”  For a second he became my favorite person in Lakehurst, NJ until he added, “Yeah, they had a guy named Bill Buckner who in 1986…” OUCH! As I tried tuning SSG Alvarado out, he enthusiastically proclaimed, “Go Mets”.

Back to Laura’s story.  “My friend and co-worker Jen Holt said she would not jump without me,” Laura explained,  “Of course, that’s when my spontaneous side took reign.” Laura thought it was best not to think of the jump until the actual day. She wasn’t even planning to tell her mother until after the jump occurred. The day of the jump, she said the anxiety was building by the hour. After watching a motivational video and signing her life away, she had to wait two hours for her turn.

SGM Michael Eitneiar helps Laura with the harness.

“My ability to laugh at jokes, many aimed at me, had dissipated,” she explained. On the plane, her heart was beating out of her chest as she looked out the window wondering why the plane was still going up. Her tandem master,  SSG Joe Jones laughed and said, ” Oh, this is 7,000 ft. We’re only half way there.” That is when Laura dramatically grabbed onto his leg, hung her head and uttered, “Im so sorry but I CAN’T DO THIS. Take me back.” While Laura knew she couldn’t be the first person ever to say those words, she was still very embarrassed. She wondered why everyone else on the plane was calm yet she could barely breath. Laura’s next move was brilliant. She simply refused to put on the required cap, knowing once she did, there would be no turning back.  SSG Jones, knowing he had to do something quickly, told Laura that he had a wife and two children on the ground and his plan was to see them again. When that wasn’t enough he added that he hates landing in planes,preferring to jump instead!

Laura's cap is on! Seated with her jump master, Sgt Joe Jones.

Something SSG Jones said must have worked because Laura put on her cap and allowed him to slowly lead the way to the plane’s door.

Laura's big moment. Looking down probably wasn't the best idea.

SSG Jones counted 1, 2 and on 3 they were free falling.

I am so impressed that Laura's eyes are open and a tad jealous that she is smiling. Why am I the only skydiver who didn't smile?

Up to this point, Laura reminded me of the way I was on my first jump. When she told me she had kept her eyes open the entire time, I was impressed. “It was like an out-of- body experience, ” she explained. All she could hear was her breathing, which at least she was doing,  and SSG Jones reminding her to look up.  She remembers the smell of the clean, salty air while she tried slowing down her breathing. Laura said, “My body couldn’t catch up with my thoughts that everything was going to be alright.”

When the parachute opened, she was much happier knowing she’d soon be able to relax. “We coasted down and Joe ensured a perfect landing”, she explained “My smile was all gratitude and relief.” It took Laura about ten minutes to stop shaking.

Jen Holt, Ed Marinez and Laura Marcos, all of Union City High School, triumphantly walk from the drop zone.

Laura still appears to be in shock.

She is the only skydiver I've seen go to the ground on the drop zone.

Still in shock

Now that it’s over, Laura is very happy  she did it. When I asked Laura if she would jump again she replied, “Maybe but only with the Golden Knights. They’re a tough act to follow.”

Standing proud with her Golden Knights.

While Laura is grateful to be back safely on the ground, she is thrilled to have a story of the sky.  “It was truly an honor to have jumped with the Golden Knights.”

Felicidades, Laura!

Daredevil Doctor

May 19, 2010

Dr. Marilyn Wells, Provost of East Stroudsburg University in PA has been a daredevil since childhood.  Her mother always encouraged her to try new things saying, “Don’t go through life being a scaredy cat.” Dr. Wells is trying to teach her eight year old daughter that same lesson. As women we need to set an example,” she said. It seems to be working for when she told her daughter she would be skydiving, her daughter didn’t miss a beat and asked, “Can I jump too?”  Her eighteen year old son, however, reacted differently .  “Yea, right, Mom,” he answered. When Dr. Wells tried convincing him that she  indeed does have a wild side he inquired, “What’s your wild side going over the margins or maybe changing fonts?”

Dr. Marilyn Wells

I asked for her thoughts on the jumpsuit and she said, “The jumpsuit is ok. It made me feel like a man in uniform”. I guess that’s a good thing for if the Golden Knights are ever giving away jumpsuits, I won’t have to fight Dr. Wells to get one.

She was last to jump from the plane so had plenty of time to take deep breaths and try staying calm. “I knew I wanted to soak in the entire experience,” she added.  The daredevil doctor loved the jump, feeling like a child at an amusement park, wanting to run and get back in line for another turn.

My favorite part was when I asked if she preferred the Red Sox or Yankees and she responded, “The Red Sox are in Boston, right?” I held my breath waiting for her to give the wrong answer when she surprised me by adding, “Then I guess I’ll go with the Red Sox.” A Red Sox fan in PA? She really is a daredevil.