Warriors make heroic sacrifice

Published 9:49 pm Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday assignments usually aren’t my favorite part of the week on the rare occasion when they are required. After all, there’s a reason we don’t publish a Monday paper.

However, I worked this Sunday and left the assignment amazed at the strength and dignity human beings can have, even when faced with terrible adversity.

I attended the “Jumping for a Purpose” event at Skydive Suffolk. Dozens of wounded veterans — some of them double amputees — came from miles around for the thrill of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

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The veterans of wars from Korea to Afghanistan and Iraq got suited up in their harnesses, climbed into an airplane with their instructors and took the plunge. Many had never been skydiving before.

Many people were watching the weather reports, praying and crossing their fingers all week that the weather would be nice, the wildfire smoke would dissipate and the warriors could go skydiving. As it turned out, the weather was beautiful for much of the day, with only scattered clouds, allowing the plane to dump its human cargo in midair.

I gingerly approached some of the younger veterans, worried that they might not want to talk to media after their ordeal. They’ve probably dealt with enough media, I told myself, after their injuries, or they might be so consumed with their own problems that they did not want to share.

I found neither to be true. Most of the veterans I talked to were some of the friendliest, fun-loving people I’ve ever met. They had no problem telling me about their injuries, their recovery process and whether they were nervous to skydive. Some of them were injured just this year and already are up and walking on their prostheses.

A couple of them even told me they are getting ready to run marathons and do bicycling adventures together.

I was amazed at the persistence and dedication of these wounded warriors. They were so dedicated to their country that they signed up for what they knew was a dangerous job. They are so dedicated to their lives that they have persevered to get back to as much normalcy as possible, rather than to lie in a hospital bed and feel sorry for themselves.

It was quite an experience for me to be able to spend a little bit of time in the presence of these humble warriors, who gave so much of themselves for so little in return.

As I was leaving, after my normal “Thanks for talking with me,” I made sure to tell them “Thanks for your service.” It’s something we as Americans don’t say often enough.