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Parachuting and COVID-19: What I learned falling through the sky and what we will learn from today’s chaos

  • Created By: uid=jverkon,cn=users,dc=asponte,dc=com uid=jverkon,cn=users,dc=asponte,dc=com
  • Updated: April 16, 2020

A beautiful summer day for a "Hollywood Jump", just a parachute for a non-tactical jump, out of an Air Force C-130. Within seconds of my chute opening, I was inside another jumper’s chute. Weaved my way out and then the winds took me back in. As you can imagine, with 30 suspension lines you have to go back out the same way you came in—between 2 of the 30 lines.  Of course, this was done while listening to the colorful language from the guys chute I was in. As I exited his chute for the 2nd time, all I saw was darkness as my reserve deployed around my head and neck.....

 

My first thought was that guy is a stud as I thought the parachute around my head and neck was his main & he ‘cut away’.  My 2nd thought was, let me see if we can get out of this.  As I untangled the chute around my head, it redeployed under my left leg and I was descending quickly with one leg extended with my main chute all 'jacked up' behind me.  My 3rd thought was my right leg is going to shatter. 4th thought was I can pull up my right leg but then my spine would be pushed through my skull and there goes my open casket.  These are true thoughts—life of a paratrooper. 

 

I immediately accepted the fact that I had absolutely zero control over the outcome of this jump; just as we have zero control over when the shutdown will end.  

As I was making my way to the ground, I noticed I was going somewhat down and parallel to the ground to a degree. At last, something good--hope!  That may be where we are now in this mess.  We are getting into a routine of being home and working from home while the doctors, nurses, research scientists and our leaders are providing direction or a sense of hope.  

 

The ground was coming up a lot quicker than most jumps and my only option was to ride it in.  From the landing or possibly from being dragged across the drop zone and off the drop zone through rocks and boulders, as I could not deflate either chute, I broke my back, compressed my spine, the 5th lower lumbar and 4th became best friends for life and received a concussion to name a few injuries.   I came to and as I was trained to do, checked for injuries, packed up and walked off the drop zone. Yes, walked.

This is where ‘We as a Nation’ are now.  We know how and why we hit the ground so hard.  From this day forward, we as a Nation of business leaders have to look for oncoming challenges and opportunities so we can overcome; so we can control the final outcome.  We have to look out for each other.  Seize the Initiative every single day to make things better for everyone.  It’s not about you; it’s about a Country.

 

This jump taught me that there will be points in your life where you will have absolutely zero control over the initial outcome.  No matter how hard you work, plan or pray, you are just along for the ride.  This is exactly what the COVID-19 is doing to this country; COVID-19 is taking this country for a ride. This is the time my fellow business leaders; it is up to every one of us to get off the ground and drive on with the mission.  We have to look at this as NOT an opportunity to catch up on household chores during the work week; not to work on our tennis, golf, pickleball or other skills.  But today and tomorrow we have to rise up as American’s & face the unique challenge and seize the initiative to make our companies stronger, more efficient and ready to surpass all expectations once we get to jump again. Do NOT count on the person next to you, your boss or your CEO.  Count on yourself.  Let the person on both sides of you count on you, let your boss & CEO count on you. Foster this to everyone in your company. We are Americans.  We lean on each other. We build each other up.  

 

What I learned that summer day:   Through the entire descent to the ground I was not in control of the outcome, but I could and would control the final outcome and that was to jump, train and serve my Country to the best of my ability once again. Those who know me know the pain I am in every day, but that is nothing compared to what the pain would have been if I gave up.  We are Americans!  We have the fight to get back up and jump again and dadgummit, that is what American’s do—We Fight, and We Win. That is what we will learn.  We will learn that no matter the trial, we will win and be stronger from the fall.  The world will See, and they will follow.  Seize this day and tomorrow’s tomorrow.  

 

 

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