Hi, MrHixxx & Everybody-
I'm sitting here in Baghdad & for me the month of October has been a terrible time of the year since 2004. First, we lost Chris five years ago, then Beezy too soon afterward. I just received my October 09 Parachutist (mail is truly in the "snail" mode here) and found out that we lost SGM Harry Parrish out at West Point, VA in August of this year. Too many good friends and mentors leaving us too soon! This is truly a bad month. I miss my friends and they're always on my mind even after these years.
I'd posted my respects for both Chris and Beezy on this website years ago, but I think that I screwed up and they were never displayed. I'm not good with computers, anyway (and now the irony with that-I started my MBA online.....I've got my hands full).
I met Chris in McMinnville, TN back in the late 80s when I returned from being stationed in Korea. I saw a USPA sticker on his vehicle & flagged him down; it was one of the best impulsive things I've ever done with my life. I thank God that I was given the gift and honor of calling Chris "friend".
I was on leave from the Army at the time; Chris & I got some intel that there was some heavy skydiving going on in Jenkinsburg, GA. So we decided to do a road trip down there in separate vehicles; I was to follow Chris. Yeah, right!!
Chris drove like the proverbial "bat out of hell" and I lost him almost immediately near the TN-GA state line when we started hitting the hills. We managed to link up later & made it in one piece to J-burg, where Billy Roades was running the DZ. They had either a King or Queen Air & I was ecstatic! I'd only jumped military helicopters with maybe a couple hundred of Cessna jumps at that time. When we were dirt diving, Chris asked me if I wanted to be front float and I eagerly replied "Hell, Yeah!!" Then I paused and asked Chris what a front float was. He just shook his head & smiled, then tolerantly explained what I had to do.
Chris was always patient & a great mentor. Every jump I made with him, whether in J-Burg or at the grass runway in Carr,TN (with King Morton flying the Cessna) or at T-homa, was a gift.
When I was about to hit 1,000 jumps in Hawaii, I waited until I came back to Tennessee because I wanted to do #1,000 at Tullahoma with Chris. We did a 2 way on the last lift of the day; it was going to be a "cat" with Chris on the tail. He threw out my pilot chute at about 9,000 ft; I still remember his smirk as my canopy deployed. Chris nailed me with a pie as soon as I landed. Afterward, a huge t-storm moved in and all of us got trashed on some of Chris' moonshine. What a day!!!
I was on shift as a deputy at the Cannon County Sheriff's Dept on that terrible night that I heard about Chris. My wife kept crying and was having trouble telling me what happened; she thought the world of Chris like everyone else. When she finally told me, I had to pull over because I could barely see to drive. The closest place to park was a small church in the back area of the county; that seemed fitting somehow. I staggered out of my patrol car (the reserve deputy riding with me thought I'd gone nuts) and I didn't think the tears would ever stop.
I hadn't gotten that much of a chance to be around Chris when I retired from the Army and became a cop, and it tore me up when I realized I'd never see my friend's smile or hear him joke around with me ever again. I will regret that lost time with Chris for the rest of my life. You just don't make friends like him everyday. One of the beautiful things about are sport is the special friendships that you make with exceptional people like Chris.
When Kristi allowed me to both speak at the memorial service for Chris and make that final jump with Beezy, Dave Nye, and Chris, I could never articulate the special gratitude that I owe to her. Those moments were some of the most difficult and emotional, yet honorable things that I've ever done in my life. No words are eloquent enough to articulate, and I'm forever grateful to Kristi for allowing me to be a part of it.
My thoughts and prayers are frequently with Kristi, Haley, Anabelle, and all of the family and friends that knew and loved Chris.
Mr. Hixxx-Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you and everyone else. I agree with you.....it isn't quite the same without Chris.