SAN DIEGO - They say, "those who don’t jump, never fly!"
I recently went skydiving for the first time, but the men who accompanied me have skydived thousands of times.
Retired Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Nick Kush has completed more than 11,000 jumps. Kush and his brother in arms, retired Navy SEAL Mike Sarraille have been deployed 16 times, most of those deployments were in combat. In retirement, they've bonded over their shared loss of their fallen brothers.
"It's a form of post-traumatic stress that is not talked about often, said Sarraille. "The booms and the bangs and dealing with the enemy that's not what bothered me. It's the fact that so many good women and men didn't come home."
That's what inspired the two to turn their pain into purpose. In 2021, Sarraille and Kusk, along with retired Navy SEAL Andty Stumpf, formed Legacy Expeditions to honor those who gave their lives. Their website is filled with young faces that paid the ultimate price.
"We're finding this electronic footprint we're leaving behind to tell then legacy of our fallen and of each other so that continues on," said Kush.
The veterans each year tackle what, for most, would be a mission impossible — like skydiving from the highest points in the Himalayas, or jumping across Iceland in 2022. This year, the group broke world records when they completed seven skydives on seven continents in seven days. The expeditions raised money for Folds of Honor, a non-profit that provides scholarships to families of America's fallen or disabled military and first responders.
Kush said it's "to get them the best education possible so that way they can grow and become leaders of America tomorrow."
Their goal is to raise $7 million to fund 1,400 scholarships. So far, they've raised almost half a million dollars.
"I want to reshape how the publice looks at the military," said Sarraille. "The one institution that provides the most scholarships, it's the institution called the U.S. Army."
That brings us back to our jump at Skydive San Diego — a jump to remember and fundraise for those willing to sacrifice their lives for ours.
After signing many waivers, and a detailed demonstration from Kush, my tandem partner, we boarded the plane and headed up tp 12,500 feet.
The feeling of that free fall was indescribable.
The views under the Folds of Honor canopy were awe-inspiring, and the sounds were a peace I've never heard.
My few minutes in the air were worth every second.
It was the least I could do to help these warriors pay tribute to their fallen heroes — especially over Memorial Day Weekend.
"We realize some of the best things in life are on the other side of difficulty," said Kush.
To learn more about Legacy Expeditions or to donate, visit their website, legacyexpeditions.net.