Wounded veterans get air power

Published 9:50 pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

A unique Memorial Day event continues Sunday at Skydive Suffolk, as dozens of wounded veterans will get the opportunity to skydive.

They follow dozens who had their chance on Saturday. For many, it was something they never thought they would have the chance to do after their injuries.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Justin Crabbe had skydived once before he got injured.

Sean MacCormac, left, helps U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter get strapped into his tandem harness at Skydive Suffolk during the Jumping for a Purpose event on Saturday.

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“I came because I’ve wanted to go again, but ever since I got hurt I didn’t know if I could,” he said.

Crabbe was on foot patrol in Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2011, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He lost multiple fingers, and both legs were amputated above the knee.

On Saturday, it had been exactly nine months since his accident. During his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where most of the vets came from Saturday, he has been golfing and even skiing, using a bucket with skis attached. But he didn’t think skydiving was in the cards.

“This is awesome,” he said. “I’m so glad I got to do it again.”

The event was organized by Wounded Wear, a nonprofit organization that provides specially altered clothing for wounded veterans, and Troopswap, a website that offers discounts exclusively for military members.

“It gives them a chance to show they’re not going to let their wounds in combat limit them from living their lives,” said Matt Thompson, co-founder of Troopswap who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jay Redman, a former Navy SEAL who was wounded in a firefight in Iraq in 2007, is the founder of Wounded Wear.

“It was just a great opportunity,” he said of the second annual event. “When you’re wounded, you struggle with what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. This is an empowerment thing.”

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tyler Southern was excited to jump out of the plane, even though he lost both legs, an arm and two fingers on his other hand to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan two years ago.

“I was getting frustrated on the plane ride, because I felt like it should be in the air faster,” he said, adding he had done a backflip out of the airplane door. “It was a good time.”

Southern and his team were on foot patrol in southern Afghanistan on May 5, 2010.

“We were told the building had eight bad guys in it,” he said. “The building had no bad guys and four IEDs.”

The entire team missed the first one, but he stepped on the second one — so he has been told.

“I don’t remember any of it,” he said. “My head control-alt-deleted it for me.”

Fortunately, nobody stepped on the other two explosive devices. They were found later during a sweep of the building after the explosion.

Thompson said he wishes more people had showed up on Saturday to meet the injured service members. He hopes more people will come Sunday.

“Memorial Day is all about remembering the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes,” he said. “I think it’s important for people in Suffolk to come tomorrow. Most people look at them and don’t know what to say. All they need to say is just, ‘Thank you.’”

Skydive Suffolk is located at the Suffolk Executive Airport, 1200 Gene Bolton Drive. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.