How Skydiving Changed My Life - Brian Doyne
by Brian Doyne | A-60685 | Fredericksburg, Virginia
To put it simply, skydiving gave me freedom. In February of 2005, I was deployed to Iraq as a member of an explosive ordnance disposal unit. Our job was the neutralization of explosive threats to coalition forces; we’re the guys and girls that stop roadside bombs from hurting folks. It wasn’t always easy, but truth be told, we sure had fun doing it. On February 24, 2005, I was doing a post-blast investigation on a blast site that had injured some American soldiers when three more devices went off. The largest of them was about 20 feet away and had an estimated 20 pounds of explosives in it. Besides hurting like a bunch of words not allowed in print, it did the following: mostly tore both legs off below the knee, screwed up all the tendons and ligaments in both knees, collapsed a lung, blew my left arm off below the elbow, destroyed my left eye, and fractured my skull (and those are just the major injuries). Needless to say, this was a life-altering experience. I’ve stayed positive, though, kept myself active and try to stay in shape, but the truth is—things hurt. All the time.
Skydiving is something I had always wanted to do, but had never gotten around to. After being injured, it was something I wasn’t sure I could do until this year, when I made the decision to give it a try and at the very least get an amazing memory out of it. So I called my former commander, Paul Kopelen, a long-time USPA member and AFF instructor, to start figuring things out. After numerous phone calls, e-mails, and my reading the Skydiver’s Information Manual cover to cover a few times, we set a date for me to get started. Paul got in touch with John Rogers of Tradewind Skysports in North Carolina and worked his magic. After telling him what we were doing, John was gracious enough to keep his drop zone open all week so one student could get his A license.
Prior to strapping on a rig for the first time, Paul and I agreed it would be wise to see if I could actually fly my body before I jumped out of an aircraft. So he scheduled some wind tunnel time at Paraclete XP SkyVenture in Raeford, North Carolina. After 30 minutes in the tunnel learning basic belly-flying, Paul judged me stable and safe enough to jump. The next day started my week-long odyssey to get my license. It was, by far, the most idyllic week of my life. All we did was jump. We talked dive flows and canopy flows, we packed, and we jumped.
Now, my calling that week idyllic may strike you as overly dramatic, but it isn’t. To understand why, you have to understand that my normal day consists of pain. Just about everything I do hurts, from walking, to sitting, to waking up in the morning—it all hurts. But when I’m in the air, that all goes away. I can honestly say skydiving is the only time my body doesn’t hurt. That fact by itself has had a major positive impact on my life, but just as important to me is the fact I’m just like everybody else in the air. I fly just like every two-armed person in the world. Jumping has required very little adaptation or special consideration. I don’t have to do things differently, for once. And for guys like me, a sense of normalcy is a bigger deal than you can possibly realize. So to answer the question of how skydiving changed my life, I’ll leave it with the following: It gave freedom and with freedom came peace of mind, and it gave me normalcy. For a guy like me, it doesn’t get any better than that.