Story by Randy Twells; Photos- RT, Petrina Hermann
(Chris Kyle tribute)
On a clear blue-sky day with camera in hand, it was heart-stopping timing to capture the Navy SEALs Leap Frog 3-man team parachuting out of the sky, with the target a 6’X6’ orange fabric crossbar target laid out between two buildings barely 60 feet apart in the industrial park at San Diego Harley- a group of us photographers staged over in a corner of the paved area to capture the action as close as possible yet not get in their way. With eyes on the sky we saw the Leap Frogs’ plane make many passes high overhead checking the wind speed and direction for the optimal point to begin their jump. Finally we saw three dots appear behind the plane! They began their descent, So1 Justin Gonzales & Chief Brad Woodard with smoke trails marking their gentle spiral course. The third SEAL, Warrant Officer Keith Pritchett, flew a huge American flag on his descent, glorious colors waving against the clear sky. These SEALS/Leap Frog Team Members who have probably about 5-6000 jumps between them, nailed their landings, giving us exciting close-up shots in the process!
As soon as they each landed, their ground assistants sprang into action helping them capture the parachutes, flag and all the lines etc.–there’s a lot to do in a split second! Then these highly skilled SEALs were happy to pose with thrilled adults & kids alike for photos while still wrapping up their gear. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner briefly stepped up onstage to welcome everyone for being here. Thus the Leap Frog Team jump and the Mayor kicked off San Diego Harley’s Boots On event, supporting the Boot Campaign- attendees are urged to ‘get your boots on’ from the supply in all sizes, at the Boot Campaign booth- a great win-win; supporters get some awesome military-style boots to wear proudly and in the words of the Boot Campaign official website www.bootcampaign.com , “Proceeds from our boot sales combined with donations and corporate sponsorships help us to assist wounded military and their families with job placement, mortgage free homes, PTSD counseling, adaptive clothing and so much more.” Glasses of Wild Turkey were raised in the back shop/HOG Beach area, in tribute to the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history. Completing his military service in 2009, Chris found his calling thereafter using his own recovery from war trauma to help fellow vets also find their way to repurpose their battle experience and find their place back in civilian society again. In 2012, with San Diego-based attorney Scott McEwen & Jim DeFelice’s encouragement & help, Chris had documented his high-intensity military career in the New York Times best-selling autobiographical work, “American Sniper”. Tragically, on February 2, 2013, at age 38, Chris himself was shot & killed, murdered by one of the very veterans he was trying to help.
So Chris’ teammate Andrew Paul and Scott McEwen came to San Diego Harley at the invitation of owner New York Myke, himself a 101st Airborne vet, to honor Chris Kyle. All gave moving tributes to Chris. New York Myke had also invited Sarah and Todd Palin to be a part of this event & tribute, and although they were unable to attend due to scheduling, they provided a statement honoring Chris’ legacy and example of service to others, which Myke read as part of the tribute to Kyle.*
Along with the serious side of things there was entertainment, food & tall cold ones out front too. So I roamed around the event area which included a very well-populated Beer Garden, Bull Taco and Hooters food booths, out of this world Badunka Chunk cookies, Fulmer Helmets, Advocare wellness products, Forged Clothing, & non-stop bands Buzzbombs, Slower and Superunloader. Great fun multiple-genre music, picnic tables & plenty of grassy lounging & viewing area. I can speak for the Bull Taco fare- while they had wild boar and other choices like carne asada etc., all $2 a pop, I opted for the chicken street tacos which were awesome. I will definitely use the ‘free taco’ card that came with my food order, good at any of their locations.
Then as I was munching on the Bull Tacos at the nice shaded tables with white cloth covers etc.- very nice- I thought, “I know this guy sitting here’- so I scooted over to say “Hi.” This unassuming young man is the “Saluting Marine”, former Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers, who has stood at attention 10 years running, as thousands of motorcycles roar around & past him on the route at Rolling Thunder, Washington, DC. No kidding. Connecting the dots, this is the recently medically-discharged Marine I’ve also seen on the news whose project now is to establish campgrounds for homeless vets as a base from which they can operate, with shower/bathroom/ laundry facilities, lockers to stash their gear, and security and oversight to keep it all safe. A low cost way to let them function on their own yet have an address for job seeking and other purposes plus a place to call ‘home’, even as temporary as it might be. A springboard if you will. What a great idea. This campground idea for homeless vets needs backing, and Tim is hoping to get interest, mentoring and support. Tim had his info cards and Thank You T-shirts available in a special display area inside the dealership for meet & greet. For more info visit www.thesalutingmarine.com .
Checking out the raffles, prizes, etc., tickets were $1 each, and tickets were going fast; I got mine for sure- And there were about 6 long tables full of various donated prizes including an electric guitar courtesy of Sky Vodka. So they call the numbers and, I won a 30- Minute Massage from Silver Strand Spine & Sport, and 5 BarreWorx Body Sculpting exercise classes! What better prize for an on-the-go photojournalist! And, everyone had such a great time, the music played on into the evening, til everyone had to get….booted! There was so much here to see and do all in honor of our military and to support their families.
*You can find “American Sniper” online and at bookstores. Donations for Chris Kyle Memorial Trust Fund: Plains Capital Bank, 2911 Turtle Creek #1300, Dallas, TX 75219 – ABA 111-322-994.