Former President Bush Celebrates 80th Birthday By Jumping With
George Herbert Walker
Bush wanted to prove "just because you're 80 doesn't mean your
finished." Twice Sunday, the 41st president of the United States
went skydiving -- both times in tandem with members of the US Army
"People say, `Why are you doing this, you nutty old man?'" Bush
said before his twin jumps on Sunday. "I say, one, because I want
to. It feels good. There's a thrill involved. And two, just because
you're 80 doesn't mean you're finished. It sends a message to a lot
of people... that old age is not a barrier."
High winds and moderate cloud cover over College Station (TX)
forced a change in the former president's plans. Instead of making
his fifth solo jump from 13,000 feet, Bush 41 jumped from just
3,000 feet in tandem with a member of the Golden Knights.
The jump appeared to have been ideal, in spite of the iffy
weather conditions. After the canopy deployed, Bush could be seen,
relaxed and waiving to about 5,000 people waiting below. As he
approached the ground, the president pulled his feet up
perpendicular to his body and skidded to a stop on his keester.
Immediately, he stood up and began shaking hands with
"When you're in the arms of an experienced paratrooper," Bush
told interviewers," you have a lot less to worry about. The
sensation was exactly the same" as if he'd jumped solo.
It was actually Bush's
second jump of the day. At around 7:30 am local time Sunday, he
made a tandem jump without incident.
"I felt no fear in the hands of these, the most qualified
paratroopers in the world," he said of the Golden Knights. "This is
a day of joy and a day of wonder for the Bush family -- especially
the old guy."
Sunday's last jump was Bush's fifth. The first came in the
closing days of World War II, when he was shot down over the
Pacific. After Sunday's tandem jump, Bush was awarded his
paratrooper's badge -- with an embedded bronze star to show he had
jumped over enemy territory under combat conditions.
"Poppy" Bush jumped on his 75th birthday, a solo jump in 1999.
But will he jump again? After all, former First Lady Barbara Bush
has been quoted as saying she's none too pleased with her
octogenarian husband's interest in leaping out of perfectly good
airplanes. Earlier, she told reporters, "This is going to be his
last jump, one way or the other."
But the senior Bush, father of the current president, seemed
undaunted by his wife's statement. "I'm thinking about asking for
another jump in a couple of months."
Will he celebrate his 85th birthday with another skydiving
adventure? "Well, they're christening (an aircraft carrier) then. I
want to see some great grandchildren."
As the former president walked away from the drop zone, he said,
"CAVU -- ceiling and visibility unlimited. That's where my life is