During Joshua Ferguson’s first skydive on Saturday, the only thing he was worried about was losing his prosthetic leg.
Ferguson, who has been in the U.S. Army for 20 years and is still active duty, was one of 10 wounded warriors to skydive at Skydive Suffolk for the eighth Jumping for a Purpose event put on by the Combat Wounded Coalition.
Ten wounded warriors and five members of Gold Star families – those who have had a family member die in service to our country – took the leap at 13,000 feet.
It was a new experience for most of them. Ferguson, who lost his leg to an improvised explosive device in Iraq, said he had jumped from a plane at altitudes of 800 to 1,200 feet in training, but it wasn’t the same.
“You land a whole lot harder,” he said of his Army jumps. “It’s a manner of transportation more than anything.”
But skydiving was more relaxing and exhilarating, all at the same time.
“It’s a rush,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back up there again.” But next time, he’ll leave his prosthetic leg on the ground, he said.
Jason Redman, the founder of the Combat Wounded Coalition and himself a wounded warrior, said the experience is a way of helping those who have suffered a loss move forward.
“It’s really easy in life, when something bad happens, to step back and protect ourselves,” Redman said. “It’s just kind of human nature. For a lot of the warriors and those who have lost somebody, they can’t see how they move forward. This inspires you to push further down the road.”
Mary Strong, whose son, U.S. Sgt. Charles C. Strong, 28, died Sept. 15, 2014, in Afghanistan, felt the same way.
“It’s a conquering thing for me,” she said before her jump. “I’m doing it in honor of both of my sons, the son I lost and the son I still have.”
Her other son, Jasen Strong, is also a Marine.
Sharon Patterson, also a Gold Star mother, said before her jump that she was jumping because she thought her son would be proud of her. U.S. Sgt. Jayton Patterson died in 2005 in Iraq.
“I’m very proud of myself, and I know Jayton would be proud of me,” she said afterward.
Gold Star father Dan Robinson got the privilege of jumping with a tandem instructor who also is in the military and was close with his son, Heath Robinson, who was a Navy SEAL who died Aug. 6, 2011, in Afghanistan.
“To come down from 14,000 feet and just glide and fly, and having someone that’s close to my family with me, it was just amazing,” Robinson said.
Mike Manthey, the owner of Skydive Suffolk with his wife, Laura Manthey, said Jumping for a Purpose is “probably our favorite event.”
“They get to jump like their sons did in the military,” out of the back of the plane, Manthey said of the Gold Star parents. “It’s kind of closure for them.”