Just over a year ago I joined the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team and enrolled in their 9 day airborne jump school. At the tender age of 50! Jumping from an airplane at any age is certainly a questionable endeavor and there were many introspective moments when I questioned my own judgement! But I have spent my entire life based in introspective doubt filled moments where I reasoned- I'm not old enough, I don't have the money to do that, I don't have the time to do that, or more so now- I am too old to do that!
However with age and lots of mistakes comes wisdom for those of us lucky enough to live this long. So now I tend react to those introspective doubts with "Hell yeah I can!". I question the negative assumptions of my age, wallet, resources, time, physical abilities etc. When that voice says "you can't" I now tend to say "fuck you I can!". I look for things I cannot normally do or things "not for the average".
I have had people hear me talk and immediately assume I cannot do something... or assume I am a racist white southerner! I love those people and those moments! One of my favorites was a University of Florida Admissions official in Tigert Hall who told me "You will never attend the University of Florida!". Those people are some of my greatest motivators and I love to be around them! Many don't understand me and even vilify me! I love those people. This is particularly poignant if you live far from your birthplace, where you will surely be misunderstood by the local yocals! I have lived in Europe (3.5 years) and 5 states! When I say "lived" it means I got mail and a drivers license there, I wasn't there on some tour! Plus I am a global traveler. The greatest benefit for me from this vast experience has been the development of a keen understanding of people. Mostly how we are all basically the same. With most average people being totally 'fear driven".
This realization has helped me to focus on striving to be the opposite- "courage driven". Knowing that every great moment in my life originated when I took that first scary step. Whether it was to leave my home at 17 and join the Army, to go to college, to take the hard courses, to enter the competitions, to take the trips, to accept the missions, or.... to take that first step out of the airplane door!
At the Airborne Demonstration Team Jump School in Frederick OK new applicants must complete 5 jumps to qualify. The Jumpmasters and instructors at the school are the best of the best, most with 100's of jumps and many with Special Forces, Ranger, Infantry and/or Pathfinder qualifications. A level of experience far surpassing the instructors at the actual Ft. Benning Airborne School. During the last half of the course applicants enter "jump phase" and begin working on their 5 jumps.
Each morning we are assembled into "sticks" to organize our exit from the C47... on perhaps my 3rd jump I was randomly chosen for Stick 1-Jumper 1. This meant I got to "Stand in the Door"! I was the first one that morning at the aircraft door. I am so grateful I had that opportunity. Standing at the open door of a C47 at about 1,200ft AGL staring out at a gorgeous Oklahoma October sunrise, sun just popping up on the horizon at the wing tip of the plane, air rushing over my face. Awaiting the slap on my backside from the Jumpmaster and his order of "GO!"... I probably only waited maybe 25 seconds there standing in the door but time stood still and it could have been 5 seconds or 5 minutes I am not sure. When I received the command I took that step... I owned that step... the 4 seconds of free fall put my trust beyond my training and abilities in a place I rarely get to exist... a place I mostly have tried to avoid... but a place where the rewards are exponentially handed out. A rare place reserved only for those moments when we conquer our fear.... when we say "Fuck you I can!"
When I jump I always shout "GERONIMO!", even as a young kid jumping from the cypress tree or rope swing into the Suwannee river. If you get the chance I encourage you to read the book "Geronimo Leadership Strategies of an American Warrior by Mike Leach. The author Mike Leach is one of the greatest football coaches of our time, Leach never played a single game of football but was a dedicated student of Geronimo and other warriors. He is renowned for his "air raid offense" an all out spread offense which plays with reckless abandon, passing the ball all over the field. No doubt his study of Geronimo influenced this creative and aggressive strategy to the game. Geronimo lost everyone and everything he knew- his entire village, family, parents, wife, children all slaughtered by the Mexicans and the Americans over a short period. With all lost it is said Geronimo charged straight into a powerful force of heavily armed soldiers, he had no weapons on him and nothing to lose... he fought with complete reckless abandon and total fury... it completely caught the soldiers off guard as they didn't even believe it could be happening at first. Outnumbered 100 to 1 Geronimo overwhelmed the force and put them in a hasty retreat. This is how Geronimo fought from that day forward. From that moment forward when anyone shouts "Geronimo" it means the same thing- "Jump" "Go for it" "Just do it".... Don't sit around thinking about all the things you have to lose and all the reasons you can't! Today the mighty warrior Geronimo lies in rest at Ft Sill OK just up the road from Frederick OK and we should all be students of how he approached battle.... So next time you think "I am not the right age", "I don't have enough time", I don't have enough money", "I am not that good", or any of those self doubts..... Remember to shout GERONIMO! AND ENTER THAT RARE SPACE... A SPACE RESERVED ONLY FOR THOSE WITH MASSIVE COURAGE BUT A SPACE WITH UNLIMITED REWARD.
Special thanks to my good friend and coworker Erika Martinez for capturing this video!