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Parachute Story from the National Training Center, Ft Irwin, CA 1989. In April of ’89 I served as a Detachment Commander during the Army’s first Special Operations Rotation to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, CA. Our mission was to parachute in and take down a radar site so the Rangers could take down an airfield. Simple but difficult, and as it is with many first time efforts we had many "do not repeat experiences". The first of those happened the night we jumped in. The high desert air is thinner than normal, and knowing this we requested to use a new parachute designed to trap more air in thinner atmospeheres and slow descent in normal conditions. Our request was denied because two chutes had malfunctioned in LA two weeks earlier. We made a poor decision that night, we opted to use the standard chute even though we were jumping in thin air and heavily armed. No one’s parachute fully opened that night. When a chute fully opens it gets really tight and full above you. That is one of the greatest feelings you can experience. That night that wasn’t what we experienced, as I looked up to see why I wasn’t being slowly lowered to the ground I saw what the other jumpers saw ... our chutes weren’t catching much air and were flapping around above us. We called that sniveling, when the chutes didn’t fully open. It creates one of the worst scenarios in jumping because you risk further malfunction if you deploy your reserve as you would if you had a complete malfunction of your main chute. As I looked around that night everyone was making the same decision, ride in hard without using your reserve. I made the same choice, boy was that a hard landing. About 100 feet above the ground I lowered my rucksack so I wouldn’t land with it strapped to my legs. When it hit the ground it sounded like someone dropped a load of bricks. I thought oh man, I’m next. We all landed pretty hard that night. It’s funny what you remember at times like that. One thing that sticks out in my mind is a knife I had attached to my side. It came out of its sheath when I landed and it shot up about three feet and landed beside me. The whole event took about 1.5 seconds. But my memory of that knife floating in the air is about 15 seconds. Your mind tends to slow things down in times of great stress and often focuses on one particular thing, whether it is important or not.


Today, I’m asking you to open your minds, because like parachutes minds don’t work unless they are open.

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