I spent my formative years as a professional backpacker and tour guide in the airborne infantry; my time as a squad leader and platoon sergeant prepared me for dealing with tempermental younglings heavily armed and possessed of significant baditude. Said experience came in useful when I swapped my uniform for Levis, a Pakistani leather jacket and the finest in Bruce Nelson and Milt Sparks tooled leather to tote around my Clark-customized Combat Commander, but like all old paratroopers, I have a lifetime fondness for all of us foolish enough to volunteer to fall out of perfectly good airplanes as a means to get between bad people and good people.
I’m fortunate (and honored) to have continuing friendships amongst the latest generation of those who, among other means, get themselves in harm’s way by jumping out of airplanes. They’re sailors, airmen, Marines, and soldiers.
So I’ll think about all those who do battle on behalf of others, all those who jump out of airplanes to get in front of the bad guys, and I’ll think about the life lessons I took away from my time with the airborne infantry:
You get the job done.
You take care of your people.
Those are pretty good lessons.
And a final thought, too — here’s the patron saint of paratroopers and those who go in harm’s way on behalf of others; he’s one of those that fight from the sky, too.