Army Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor recipient who turns 86 in October, had never jumped out of an airplane before Thursday.
Three of his children have done airplane jumps — two of his daughters as sports parachutists and one of his sons as a soldier, he said.
“It kind of made me the wimp in the family,” quipped Brady, who is, by some counts, the most decorated living veteran. “So, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this.”
Brady completed his first jump alongside the Golden Knights, the Army’s parachute team, at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society convention in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Golden Knights offered medal recipients the chance to do tandem jumps at the nearby Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.
“I’m a helicopter pilot, and so I have dropped out of the sky pretty fast on occasion,” Brady told Military Times. “But I never dropped like that. … I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast or been in anything that moved that fast in my life, and then the rest of it was just beauty, just sheer beauty.”
Brady had high praise for the team that helped him with the jump, which began from about 12,500 feet in the air.
“As soon as you’re with them for about two seconds, you recognize these guys are pros — not a damn thing we have to worry about,” he said. “You’ve got to remember their instructions, and then the rest of it is just a piece of cake.”
Brady evacuated more than 5,000 wounded service members while flying an ambulance helicopter for the Army Medical Service Corps in Vietnam. He was awarded the Medal of Honor following a harrowing January 1968 mission, during which he ventured into enemy territory to rescue 51 seriously wounded men. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in Vietnam.
Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Ty Carter, 42, who received the Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan and is a Purple Heart recipient, also had the opportunity to skydive with the Golden Knights on Thursday.
During the Battle of Kamdesh in October 2009, Carter ran at least twice through 100 meters of enemy fire to resupply the ammunition of soldiers pinned down in a Humvee. Carter then defended the vehicle’s position for hours, exiting at one point to rescue a wounded comrade despite facing an onslaught of enemy grenades and machine gun fire.
Then-President Barack Obama awarded Carter the Medal of Honor in 2013. After leaving the Army the following year, Carter became an advocate for those with post-traumatic stress, which he has argued should not be labeled as a disorder.
Speaking to Military Times after the jump, Carter described it as “all-around one of the more excellent experiences in my life.”
“I had never skydived before, and I’ve always been kind of worried about it, because being in the military, I’ve got knee and back issues and, you know, I haven’t had the best luck when it comes to doing things that aren’t exactly safe,” he said. “But I figured that since it is the Golden Knights and they are the best of the best that [it was] completely simple and completely safe.
“I think I was more anxious and nervous about showing up on time than the actual jump,” he added.
The one hitch was Carter’s 8-inch beard.
“It became a face mask,” he said. “I tried to pull the beard down underneath my face just so that I could see the camera guy and he could see me, and so I had one hand on my beard and one hand just kind of floating there.”
Lt. Col. Andy Moffit, Golden Knights commander, said in a statement to Military Times that it was a pleasure for the team to work with the two Medal of Honor recipients.
“From their calm demeanor in the aircraft to their jovial nature on the drop zone, MG Brady and SSG Carter are shining examples of how to live your life in service to others,” Moffit said. “They’re an inspiration to us on the Golden Knights and it was an experience neither we nor they will soon forget!”
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.