Thursday, November 23, 2017
Military News

Wounded warriors find thrills parachuting in Zephyrhills

RECOMMENDED READING


ZEPHYRHILLS — As a U.S. Army helicopter mechanic, R.J. Anderson had been looking forward to attending Airborne School.

The three-week course for paratroopers at Fort Benning, Ga., would teach him to parachute from an airplane and land safely on his own.

But, before he was scheduled to go, Anderson was injured. A motorcycle crash paralyzed him from the chest down.

Jumping from an airplane seemed out of the question.

On Saturday, about a year and a half after his accident, that changed.

Anderson, of Chicago, was one of 14 wounded military members to tandem parachute jump at Skydive City in Zephyrhills as part of the Wounded Warrior Athletic Reconditioning Program of U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition at MacDill Air Force Base.

"It was awesome," Anderson, 31, said after landing. "I just always wanted to jump and it was everything I thought it would be."

The event marked the end of a week filled with sports training at MacDill for 54 wounded warriors from across the country attempting to qualify for a spot to represent SOCom at the Warrior Games in Colorado later this year.

Troops from all military branches injured while serving under SOCom participated in archery, shooting, cycling, track and field, volleyball and swimming. On Saturday, those not parachuting went to Busch Gardens or hunting.

Many who elected to jump Saturday had done so before their injuries, said Anthony Gonzalez, manager of the reconditioning program. "To be able to do it with the SOCom Para-Commando team, that's an amazing introduction back to recreational jumping," Gonzalez said. "And this probably won't be their last jump."

Those with injuries that restrict movement jumped in tandem with specially trained Skydive City crew members.

For 35-year-old Chuck Wesson, an Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operator who served for 15 years, the opportunity to jump again was exciting. He was paralyzed in a car accident in 2012. "The experience can't be put into words," Wesson, of Charlotte, N.C., said upon landing. "Just the act of getting up there and jumping out again, the feeling of the free fall, it was all amazing."

James Macrellis, an Army veteran from Chattanooga, Tenn., jumped with one of the Para-Commandos. It was his first time doing so since he suffered spinal and brain injuries from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan a few years ago. "At first it was very nerve-wracking," Macrellis, 43, said. "But, I had a smile on my face the whole way down."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.

Comments
SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

When Ryan Cleckner was an Army Ranger sniper in Afghanistan, he had as many as nine rifles he would use in different situations. But whenever a mission would evolve quickly, he would have to choose which ones to lug onto a helicopter. Even narrowing ...
Published: 11/22/17
Howard Altman: SS American Victory will host cruise to mark Pearl Harbor Day

Howard Altman: SS American Victory will host cruise to mark Pearl Harbor Day

Looking for a unique way to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day and celebrate the military’s nautical traditions?Check out the SS American Victory, which will set sail Dec. 2. for a two-hour cruise at 1:30 p.m.Registration will begin at noon to ride the car...
Published: 11/22/17
U.S. Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 rescued

U.S. Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 rescued

TOKYO — Eight people were rescued and three remained missing after a U.S. Navy plane crashed into the western Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, the Navy said. The C-2 "Greyhound" transport aircraft came down about 500 nautical miles (925 kilometers) southe...
Published: 11/22/17
Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

TAMPA — The number of sexual assaults reported to officials at MacDill Air Force Base has decreased dramatically during the past three years even as reports across the military have increased slightly, new Pentagon statistics show.Officials at MacDil...
Published: 11/20/17
Cyber firm accesses CentCom cloud information, gives command low security score

Cyber firm accesses CentCom cloud information, gives command low security score

Every day, military and civilian personnel stationed at the MacDill Air Force Base headquarters of U.S. Central Command use the Internet to reach out to foreign audiences in an effort to combat Islamic State propaganda.To help measure the success of ...
Published: 11/17/17
VA’s quiet plan to widen private care with TRICARE stirs concern

VA’s quiet plan to widen private care with TRICARE stirs concern

WASHINGTON — As part of its effort to expand private health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been developing plans to merge its health system with the Pentagon’s, a cost-saving measure that veterans groups say could threaten the viability...
Published: 11/17/17
Howard Altman: Missing records confound veterans on base exchange website

Howard Altman: Missing records confound veterans on base exchange website

In the more than three decades that I have been toiling at various paragraph factories, few stories have elicited as much response as the one I wrote about the new program to allow all honorably discharged veterans to shop at military base exchanges ...
Published: 11/17/17
She was an artist who answered a Craigslist ad. Next thing she knew she was best friends with a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

She was an artist who answered a Craigslist ad. Next thing she knew she was best friends with a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

University of Miami architecture student Emi Kopke still cannot believe her luck. She answered a Craiglist ad asking for an artist to do hand drawings for a special project. The self-taught artist sent in 15 of her hand drawings — including some of b...
Published: 11/11/17
As fewer serve, burden of war falls heavier on families with tradition of service

As fewer serve, burden of war falls heavier on families with tradition of service

When Lauren Price’s youngest son went off to fight in Iraq in 2008, she handed him a going-away present few parents could offer."I gave him my Iraqi cell phone," said Price, 52, a Navy veteran from New Port Richey who served in the same region of Ira...
Published: 11/10/17
Howard Altman: Army settles flap over who will wear the Green Beret

Howard Altman: Army settles flap over who will wear the Green Beret

I have a hard time picturing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, a no-nonsense guy with plenty on his plate, taking time out of his busy day sorting through color swatches.But thanks to one of two recent victories in the battle for Army tradition, ...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/10/17