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Rita Hale

“Recollections” of Mike’s First Parachute Jump

It was the day of Mike’s first parachute jump at Ft. Benning in October 1961. Mike was especially “Out of Sorts” that day, what I thought was just nerves over jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. So, I made him a big breakfast: eggs, bacon, grits, toast and jelly. He didn’t eat a bite. Having been in the Army only three months, I figured this was just the first of many strange experiences that I was to encounter in the years ahead.

Our Camellia Apartment car pool arrived shortly and Mike got into the car still looking a little bit queasy. As Mike then tells the story, he arrived at the hanger, put on his parachute and sat for the usual hour waiting to load the plane - all the time tightening his straps and thinking this was just nerves. Eventually, he loaded the plane, took off and made the jump. By this time, I had arrived at the drop zone to welcome him on the ground, along with other ’61 wives.

Of course, we couldn’t recognize our husbands falling through the sky, but I was able to see that Mike was not leaving the drop zone with the other jumpers. FIRST ALERT! As it turned out, Mike was still feeling very sick when he hit the ground. A sergeant then ran up to him to check him out. And, of course, they then loaded him into a jeep and off they went to some unknown location. My reaction: “Hello, what about me? I am his wife. Where is he going?”

When Mike’s carpool arrived back at Camellia Apartments one of the guys said, “They had taken him to the hospital.” Naturally, I hopped into our car and went to Martin Army Hospital. I was totally freaked out, wandering the halls of the hospital, trying to find my husband. Finally, this nice man came up to me and offered to help. I later learned he was the hospital commander. I finally found Mike and learned he was having an emergency appendectomy and was scheduled for surgery in a few hours.

The surgery was successful but so much for that jump class. Mike was then assigned to the training battalion for a two- month profile, waiting to enter the next class to complete his jumps. Colonel Joseph was the training battalion commander. For the next two months Mike and I made Christmas decorations for the Battalion headquarters. We met with the Colonel and his wife for drinks every afternoon at his quarters, cutting out and painting plywood Christmas elves to place in front of the headquarters.

This turned out to be a fun time and a learning experience. I had come to appreciate the prerogative of informality that we had graciously been given by the Joseph’s and also recognized there were times, when formality dictated, I remain quiet. (very difficult for my talkative nature).












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