ROUGH LANDING

      This is somewhat of an embarrrassing story. It's kind of complicated and some of the details have to be left out for security reasons. I was an Army Ranger back in 1987. At that time, before I became an officer, I was a Spec4 radio operator for the company commander, a captain. We were doing this practice mission at Fort Bragg and we jumped a couple of times during the day and I landed just a few yards from the CO both times. Except for a tortuous landing in heavy winds all went well. That night, we did it again, but this time when I jumped right after the CO I didn't fall slowly to the ground, but rose to the heavens. I don't know if my chute encountered some sort of warm air mass or whatever, but I couldn't believe it. I flew way over the airport runway upon which we were supposed to land, then sailed over a swamp (scary) then landed in the woods. I knew that I had to keep track oif where the runway was, because that was the rallying point. I was well prepared with a radio and night-vision goggles. But when I landed, my head hit a tree and I was knocked out for a second. Where was the runway? I tried to use the radio, which had a two-mile radius, but there was no answer. I had somehow flown into the Twilight Zone. So I started to walk, looking for the runway where the planes would land to piick us up. The mission was already blown because I had the CO's radio. Anyway, I walked and walked, then heard a large roar. The earth trembled. I put my night-vision goggles on and looked around. Behind me I saw a string of pinglights, the sign of a blacked-out aiirplane about to land. Not only had I found the runway, but I was on it. I emitted an explective and hurled myself into the woods. The plane landed seconds later. I almost became the first paratrooper in history to get run over by the plane from which he just jumped.

----- JustWinAl@aol.com

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