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Fundraiser helping wounded soldier skydive

Jul. 10, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Retired Spc. Jesse Murphree has been active on the slopes, but friends are helping fund a much steeper drop — the chance for the double-amputee to become a licensed skydiver.
Retired Spc. Jesse Murphree has been active on the slopes, but friends are helping fund a much steeper drop — the chance for the double-amputee to become a licensed skydiver. (Courtesy of Jumping with Jesse)
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A poster for this weekend's 'Jumping with Jesse' fundraiser in Alabama. (Courtesy of Jumping with Jesse)

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Spc. Jesse Murphree, left, poses with Staff Sgt. Elliott Alcantara in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. (Courtesy of Jumping with Jesse)


What began as a way to help a friend soar has become a drive to help other wounded warriors take flight.

A vehicle carrying Spc. Jesse Murphree, a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, struck a roadside bomb on Dec. 27, 2007; Murphree woke up on New Year’s Day 2008 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Both his legs have been amputated above the knee. He’s had 60 surgeries as part of an extended recovery but has remained active — Facebook photos show him skiing and scuba diving, among other activities.

Murphree, now medically retired, also wanted to become a licensed skydiver, said battle buddy Tyler Nelson, but some “bad information” he got while attempting to achieve that goal in Colorado awhile back led to some close calls with injury and “lost motivation.”

Nelson may have helped his friend find that motivation about two months ago, on his way home from Skydive Georgia. He’d jumped with Todd Love, a Marine veteran who’d lost both legs and an arm after stepping on an improvised explosive device in 2010.

“I thought it was pretty impressive,” Nelson said. “On my way home, I called Jesse and asked him, ‘I just jumped with a triple amputee, and you’re a double, what’s up, man? Why you slacking?’ Trying to give him a hard time, you know?”

Murphree’s response to the good-natured jab made it clear he wasn’t slacking in the slightest, just smarting from his time in Colorado. It led Nelson to make a few phone calls to skydiving sites and gear companies to see whether he could help his friend earn his license and jump solo.

He launched a Fundly page to raise cash for the gear and the training, but generosity turned it into something more.

Axis Flight School in Arizona offered to host the training. Then a gear company offered to provide a custom-made flight suit, free of charge. Companies like Kelly Aerospace and United Parachute Technologies kicked in support. Recently, Nelson said, a donor offered to cover Murphree’s flight from his Florida home to the training center.

Because there’s no set time for the training — it’s open-ended, over when jumpers pass a series of tests and complete a number of jumps successfully — and the specialty gear hasn’t been priced out. Nelson said he didn’t know how much more money Murphree would need. So he set a goal of $10,000, with hopes to help others.

“I thought, why can’t we raise even more money and give that to Operation Enduring Warrior Skydive, to basically pay it back for what they’re doing for his training,” Nelson said. “For that next wounded warrior.”

The capper for the fundraising effort will be this Saturday and Sunday at Skydive Tuskegee in Alabama. “Jumping with Jesse” will offer a variety of skydiving trips, some activities for those who prefer to stay grounded (a Saturday dinner and a beer pong tournament with winners earning college football tickets, for example), and a bonfire.

“It’s the actual airfield where the Tuskegee Airmen ... had their training,” Nelson said. “A lot of history there.”

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