Friday Follies: Counting Rivets


This week for Friday Follies, I’m revisiting early 1969. For some of you, that is ancient history. For others, it is time they’d rather forget. For me, it was a time of challenge, personal growth, and a touch of stupidity in some corners. No! I was not acting stupid, but some of my buddies seemed to be.

My buddies and I reported to Fort Benning, Georgia, during the last week of January 1969. We were fresh out of Advanced Infantry Training and ready to jump out of some airplanes. Of course, the Army had plans for us. We didn’t even get near a plane until the Army was ready.

It is amazing how many stories can come out of a three-week program like Jump School. I have written about some of them in my memoirs, which may never see the light of day, but were fun to write. In keeping with my idea when I decided to add Friday Follies to my blog, I’ll focus on the one thing I can remember clearly. I remember it so well you’d think I wrote the script for it.

It was finally time for us to make our first parachute jump. Since our instructors thought most of us would probably survive that first jump, off we went. I still don’t know if it was the luck of the draw or I ticked someone off. Whatever it was, I was the first man in the door when we neared the drop zone.

For what seemed like an eternity, I was standing in the door of this beat-up old C-119 cargo plane. The engines were roaring. The wind was whipping by the open door like a vortex. I gripped the sides of the jump door so hard I left imprints of my fingers in the metal.

To keep from looking down and possibly freezing when it was time to jump, I stared at the tail boom of that old flying boxcar, counting rivets. Thankfully, when it came time to jump, my training worked. The Jump Master shouted GO slapped me on the ass, and I went.

After seconds of windblown free fall, my parachute opened, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever experienced. I was floating silently through the air, and I was drifting downward.

Yes, it was beautiful. I was floating, and I could see for miles. It was so peaceful; I could have been dreaming. Then, I heard screaming overhead! I looked up and saw some of my buddies floating above me, but I couldn’t see the source of the screaming.

Then, a trainee flashed past, stiff as a board, parachute tangled and trailing above him as he plummeted toward the ground. My beautiful dream experience became a nightmare.

To be continued….

© 2023


About S. Eric Jackson

See "About."
This entry was posted in National Defense, Patriotism, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Friday Follies: Counting Rivets

  1. Pingback: Monday Musings: A Question of Beauty | An Old Cop's Place

Leave a Reply