Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Dagger jumper makes uncle proud

STUART --- The tears were running down my face.

The 2010 Stuart Air Show's opening ceremony Sunday was under way.

High above, two jumpers from the Black Daggers, the U.S. Army's Special Operations
Command Parachute Demonstration Team, were slowly spiraling toward the ground from 5,000 feet as a young woman sang our national anthem.

One of the jumpers held the American flag, streaming in the wind as they descended.

It was my nephew, Kevin Haddon.

What a moment.

As the air show narrator announced his name, people around us clapped politely.

Not us.

Me, my wife Sherri and our niece Lauren Pierce cheered like crazy.

Then I ran around telling everyone within earshot, "THAT'S MY NEPHEW! THAT'S MY NEPHEW!"

I was one proud uncle.

I remembered the first time I'd flown out to Oregon in the mid-1980s to see my sister, Maureen, and her husband, Rob. When I got off the plane, there was Kevin, a shy little boy hiding behind my sister, clinging to her leg.

There he was Sunday, a 28-year-old member of  the elite Black Daggers.

He's been with Army Special Forces for about seven years and made more than 1,500 jumps.

Sunday's were the first I'd seen.

Kevin had called us Saturday by surprise, saying he had VIP tickets for us if we could make it.

We practically flew Sunday morning, getting to Stuart in plenty of time.

The air show itself was a blast, what with military jet fighters roaring overhead, stunt planes doing aerobatics flying around, and cool exhibits on the ground. They not only had one vintage World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber, but two of them!

Still, Kevin and his comrades were the No. 1 attraction for us.

Later on, they jumped from 8,000 feet, free-falling for most of it before popping their chutes.

I asked Kevin what going 100 mph straight down felt like?

"Windy," he said.

Spoken like a Mannix.

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