How Skydiving Changed My Life
by Bill Leonard
I was at my best the 15 years I was in the sky.
I have an intense fear of heights. My hands sweat on carnival Ferris wheels, during cliff scenes in movies and in my office (I’m on the 44th floor of a downtown building). Whenever I mention this, people just shake their heads in disbelief and say, “How did you skydive?” My answer is simple: a very persistent friend. And I will always be thankful his persistence paid off.
Like many people, I had some challenges: a father’s suicide at 13, healing after divorce, getting focus in my life. I also had some tremendous rewards: I was part of championship football teams in high school and college, which taught me the value of hard work, personal responsibility and the camaraderie of teamwork … never duplicated again until I began jumping. I have two armfuls of patches and two championship rings—the Prize of Gridiron Glory (but I also have had five knee surgeries and one knee replacement—the Price of Gridiron Glory, I suppose).
Skydiving brought a connection to other jumpers who coached me and spent time with me in the air and on the ground. No cliques, no judgment … only folks who loved the sport and loved watching jumpers improve each time we launched into the clear blue sky. I found confidence and exhilaration I never believed possible. I went from the rocking chair of worn-out memories into a brilliant world filled with color and adventure.
Skydiving allowed me to:
• Propose to the love of my life (She said yes.)
• Have two of the world’s most beautiful and talented daughters
• Skydive with my son three times, once in Texas (at Skydive Dallas, now Skydive Spaceland–Dallas in Whitewright) and twice in California (at Skydive San Diego in Jamul and Skydive Perris)
• Fly eyeball to eyeball with the best friends I have on Earth, across Texas to California
Whether you’ve made one jump or 1,000, there is a connection—a bond—uniting you with others who’ve shared the sky. The sky doesn’t care about your ethnicity, politics, background or gender, it just wants you to pay a visit once in a while and show respect while you’re there.
Forever etched across my heart are the following words: To be touched by a cloud is to be kissed by an angel. Skydiving changed my life in immeasurable ways for the better. And for that—and a persistent friend—I am forever thankful!
Bill Leonard | D-27319