It struck me as I slowly made my way from the floor of the plane and stood in the center of the walkway. There were at least 30 other soldiers on the C-140, a military aircraft that was flying over the field where those of us in jump school would soon be taking our first jump.
It was the smell of fear. Not only from me, but from the collective outpouring of the young men in front and behind me. We were all going to flee the safe and secure cabin of the ship and pray that our chutes would open without a flaw. We had practiced this for two whole weeks and had run dozens of miles to get into shape to face the fear and put it all behind us. We could do this. We could jump with joy and become one with the universe as we floated in the sky like a bird viewing the vast openness of the land beneath and all around us.
All we had to do was to stand up, hook up and shuffle to the door. Even if we faltered and wanted to back out there was a big, burly sergeant whose only purpose in life was to not so gently push us out should the fear of the unkonwn eventually overtake us.
All of us jumped. All survived with nary a broken leg or a broken spirit. All got our wings and will have from that moment war stories to tell our grandchildren about our brief moments in the air. We overcame fear and lived to talk about it.
We all can proudly say today “Airborne – All the Way Sir!”