Golden Knights Hold Alumni Reunion
by Jessica Haugaard
The Golden Knights Alumni Reunion recently brought alumni and current members of the United States Army Parachute Team to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to enjoy four days of camaraderie among teammates old and new. Coordinated by the Golden Knights Alumni Association, more than 300 active and former Golden Knights and their guests participated in the event, which ran from December 14-17.
“It was a super weekend,” said Bruce Wicks, the president of the GKAA. The biennial gathering featured a variety of events, including guided tours of the Golden Knights facility, a golf tournament, demonstration jumps, opportunities for indoor skydiving at Paraclete XP and a friendly wind-tunnel competition among current and former members of the Golden Knights 8-way team.
Throughout the weekend, the Knights honored several individuals for their contributions to skydiving. On Saturday, at the nearby Airborne and Special Operations Museum, the GKAA hosted a memorial for Dick Fortenberry, a renowned member of the original Golden Knights team in 1959. Several members of the Golden Knights jumped into the event to honor Fortenberry, whose many accomplishments in skydiving earned him a place on the cover of Sports Illustrated. His wife and two children received small gifts in his memory.
“It was very moving, a great ceremony,” Wicks said. “We opened it up for conversation and everybody was talking about all of the experiences they had with Dick. It was a fun time and sort of a tear-jerker.”
On Saturday evening, participants attended an elegant banquet at the Embassy Suites in Fayetteville, where past and present members of the Golden Knights and their guests reminisced and celebrated. The guest speaker for the event was Danny Clisham, a beloved air-show announcer who, Wicks said, “has known the team pretty much from the beginning.” After speaking to the crowd, Clisham received the title of Honorary Golden Knight, a mark of distinction bestowed upon him by Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Ramos and Command Sergeant Major Rodney O’Dell. Others receiving the title of Honorary Golden Knight for their extensive work with the Golden Knights were James F. “Curt” Curtis III, Colonel Shawn Kane and Dickie Spiroff.
The evening concluded with the highest honors that current members of the United States Army Parachute Team can receive. The Golden Knight of the Year is Sergeant First Class Kevin Presgraves; the Photographer of the Year is Sergeant First Class Brandan Parra; the Aviator of the Year is Staff Sergeant Matt Anderson; and the Civilian of the Year is Scott Stanley. These individuals received a plaque and recognition by the Golden Knights command team. Each of these awards (as well as Honorary Golden Knight) is prestigious, since current members of the Golden Knights select the recipients.
Plans are already underway for the next Golden Knights Alumni Reunion in 2019, which will mark 60 years since the start of the team in 1959. “We can’t wait until the next reunion,” Wicks said. “We are already starting to plan.”
Jessica Haugaard | C-42673
U.S. Army Parachute Team