The Best Decision I Ever Made
By Yolky D Egg
As a paratrooper, jumping out of a plane became second nature to me. But one jump sticks in my mind as one I hoped never to experience again.
It was a mass jump where many planes full of paratroopers jumped almost simultaneously. As usual, I was not afraid of anything and unlike some others, I eagerly awaited the signal to jump out the side door of the big military plane.I took a big leap and jumped out the open door at the signal. I gasped a few times as I noticed I was falling somewhat faster than the other guys who had jumped out of the big C-130 over the drop zone somewhere in Kentucky or Tennessee.
I was falling rather fast. My parachute had opened only to have a large hole near the top. I vividly remembered several times seeing jumpers having problems with their chute opening and pulling the cord on their reserve parachute which we all carried. But the problem was many times the jumper got tangled up in the reserve parachute lines and lost control entirely. Most, if not all of the times when that happened, the parachute jumper ended up hurt at the very least or worse yet died due to hitting the ground too hard or in the wrong position.
I quickly weighed my options. There were only two options and just a second or two at the most to make a decision. One way would be to open my reserve parachute and hope I could do everything right and that it would open properly and slow down my decent so I could make a proper landing. This was no easy feat if one panicked, which was often the case in such an emergency situation. The other decision would have me do nothing and hope I wasn’t falling too fast to survive a hard hit when I landed.
I quickly scanned around me and noticed that although I was falling faster than the others in the air around me, that I wasn’t streaming past them like I had seen others in trouble with malfunctioning parachutes do. I decided it would be too risky to open my reserve chute.
I crossed my fingers and said a little prayer as my decent scared the living daylights out of me thinking of the consequences if I hit the ground too hard.
I hit the ground hard, but actually not as hard as I had experienced on my second jump. That was about two years before and I had well over two dozen jumps since then. I immediately got up and ran around the back of the parachute to collapse it lest the wind started to drag me over the rocky field.It was my lucky day. I had a malfunctioning parachute, was falling fast and didn’t panic and get in serious trouble like so many I had seen before. In fact I had no trouble and landed safely. It could have been much worse.
A few months before, I had seen a soldier jump and get tangled up in his reserve parachute. It caused the main parachute to go from a partially open state to a full streamer and zoom straight down. All the while the jumper was all tangled up in the reserve chutes lines. He hit the ground in the wrong position on his back and broke almost all the bones in his body. He lived, but was in very serious shape, later to stay in the hospital over a year recuperating and ending his career and ruining his life in many ways.
I lived to tell about this jump so I consider myself very lucky. Now some 50 years later thinking about that lucky jump I watched a hang glider high overhead ride the heat currents maybe a couple of blocks or more right over my head. I had wanted to do that some years ago, but deemed it too risky for an old man like me. But it still brings back memories when I used to lots of sky divers jumping near me near the hills of Lake Elsinore, but now in Perris California some 20 minutes away.
Not opening my reserve parachute was probably the best decision I ever made since I had seen so many others do that and suffer the consequences in one way or another when things didn’t go right with either parachute once they did.
I wonder if there are any old folks out there that ever jumped with me at Ft. Campbell Kentucky with the 101st Airborne in the early 1960s?
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