Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Take Note of the Parachute Packers in Your Life and Express Thanks

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Take Note of the Parachute Packers in Your Life and Express Thanks

Article excerpt

I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with retired Capt. Charles Plumb, a Naval Academy graduate and fighter pilot who was shot down on his 75th combat mission over North Vietnam. He ejected safely, but was captured and spent the next six years in a Hanoi prison. As one author noted, "He is a common man with an uncommon story." Plumb wrote about his experiences under the title, "Packing Parachutes." With his permission, he allowed me to modify the article to accommodate some of the themes I use with patients I see at Mulberry Center, including using the packing parachute title as a metaphor for our role as managers and leaders.

For Plumb, he had always wondered about that sailor down in the bowels of the USS Kitty Hawk who had packed his parachute, realizing that the parachute did save his life, despite six years as a POW. He also had come to realize he had never given any thought about those packers spending their long days weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of those chutes, doing a standard job. As he noted, "I could have cared less, after all, I was a fighter pilot and they were just sailors."

Then, the day came when, during a Kitty Hawk reunion, Plumb wound up meeting that low-ranking parachute packer. It was life-changing. The day of the meeting, Plumb essentially experienced an epiphany by realizing that this former sailor, whom he had never met while on the Kitty Hawk, had actually provided the means that allowed him to survive. He recalled the sailor commenting that he assumed the parachute worked. Plumb's response was, "Yes sir, indeed it did and I must tell you I've said a lot of prayers of thanks for your nimble fingers, but I never thought I'd have the opportunity to express my gratitude."

Plumb noted that after he met his parachute packer, he had difficulty sleeping that night. He wondered how many times he might have seen him and not even said good morning, how are you or anything else. …

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