Two Marines, Worlds Apart, Jumping for The Same Purpose

By October 19, 2016Mission Give Back

Combat Wounded Coalition’s 8th Annual JUMPING FOR A PURPOSE | Saturday, October 15th, 2016
Presented by Geico Military Team and Skydive Suffolk

ADS was honored to be a sponsor of the 8th annual Jumping for A Purpose skydiving charity event. Skydive Suffolk and Combat Wounded Coalition partnered together with the ultimate goal of giving our wounded warriors renewed hope and inspiration. Skydiving is a feat most people wouldn’t do even if they weren’t injured. This event reminds our wounded warriors that they too are capable of anything and it teaches them to continue to live life to the fullest despite their debilitating injuries.

During opening remarks, Jay Redman, founder of Combat Wounded Coalition & Wounded Wear and also a wounded warrior, described the brief moment of hesitation before jumping out of a plane 10,000 feet in the air as a moment where “wounded warriors recognize once again that they’re still alive and can live greatly and overcome anything.”

Also in attendance were several event sponsors, non-profit organizations and Virginia delegates including Virginia Senator, 8th District, Bill DeSteph and Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson. Mayor Johnson had this to say in the opening ceremony:

“To have this event in our city is such an honor. The morning left me feeling so inspired and grateful for the heroes that build, protect and defend our country. Watching the Gold Star Flag come down through the clouds was a chilling reminder of the sacrifices families have made for us. Thank you to all who make these events possible. God bless our warriors and our country.”  

– Mayor Linda Johnson, Suffolk, VA

A total of 10 wounded warriors and 5 Gold Star family members were sponsored to skydive.  ADS had the unique opportunity to meet these brave men and women first hand, to hear their story and share in their joy as a result of this event.

For two American heroes, the time and experience they had while serving are worlds apart but their purpose for jumping is very much the same.

Bob Perkins, USMC Disabled Veteran

I want to walk on that cloud. 

Meet Bob Perkins. Bob is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran who has endured great feats to be able to sky dive in this year’s, Jumping for A Purpose event. A New Jersey native, Bob has been 100% disabled due to a friendly fire incident in Vietnam since the young age of 18. Bob’s health has been a primary concern and has prevented him from jumping in years past.

A misfire from a fellow marine led to a close range gunshot to the back of Bob’s head just 36 hours after landing in Vietnam.  Since the incident in 1968, Bob has endured countless surgeries spanning over 15 years. He’s overcome a broken hip (as a result of a bone graft to reconstruct his jaw), 2 brain seizures and 3 types of cancer.

A now healthy and happy Bob is the model volunteer and spokesperson in the local community for veterans. Inspired and “lucky to be alive,” (Kimberlin 2015) Bob has volunteered for countless non-profit organizations including Operation Smile and becoming a charter member of The American Legion. In fact the very doctor who performed Bob’s first jaw surgery, Dr. Bill Magee, ended up co-founding Operation Smile, an international medical charity that provides free surgeries for children and young adults with facial deformities, in 1982. Today, at age 66, Bob volunteers twice a week for Operation Smile and even returned to Vietnam with the non-profit organization in 2012.

To learn more about Bob Perkins, visit the Virginian-Pilot article that highlights Bob’s experience, Echoes from the Jungle, Part IV.

Pictured to the left– Bob’s Support System
Left to right: Director of the American Legion Riders, Keith DeLucenary (Retired Navy), Former Road Captain for the American Legion, Bob Perkins, Assistant Director for the American Legion, Paul Murch (Retired Army/Air Force)

Lawrence Borja, USMC Active Wounded Warrior

Not a lot of people know that the Marine Corps were largely responsible for liberating Guam from recapture during the 1944 Second Battle of Gaum, a subsequent battle of World War II. There is a street that borders the north end of the peninsula, formerly known Marine Drive, that was renamed in 2004 to Marine Corps Drive as a tribute. In an interview with ADS, Lawrence Borja, a Guam native, described the admiration and gratitude his family and friends had for Marines growing up.

To this day, Guam celebrates their liberation from Japan in the Second Battle of Guam by commemorating July 21, 1944 as their independence day. Every year, the island of Guam shuts down Marine Corps Drive and throws a huge celebration that consists of a big parade with 70+ floats, a Liberation Day Queen contest, food, festivities and more.

Lawrence has been in the Marine Corps for 11 years as an Infantry Anti-Tank Rocket man. He first joined the Marines with a great sense of pride and appreciation for all the Marines had done for Guam. Lawrence recalls his elders, who were very young when the Second Battle of Guam happened, speaking very highly of the Marines and what they did for their territory.

It’s very clear upon meeting Lawrence, that he is very proud to be a Marine despite enduring an injury while in combat in Afghanistan in 2009, that resulted in 5 reconstructive knee surgeries. Lawrence also sustained a traumatic brain injury from an Improvised Explosive Device while serving as an infantry platoon Sergeant in 2013 – 2014.

Still active-duty, Lawrence was accompanied to the Jumping for A Purpose event with his first cousin, Peter Suguitan, as seen in the picture to the right. Lawrence, an only child, still refers to Peter as a big brother. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree as Peter was also largely motivated to join the Marines as an Infantryman Anti-tank Rocket man, by his island’s heritage and their deep connection to the military.  Peter is a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who participated in operation Phantom Fury or also known as the Battle of Fallujah.

Pictured to the right– Lawrence’s Support System, Left to right:Lawrence Borja, Lawrence’s first cousin Peter Suguitan

Life is too short to control everything, take a leap of faith and feel the rush of the unknown.”

“After the first 3 seconds out of the plane I felt free and cleansed from every stressor and bad memory I had during the 55 secs of free falling. I had no time to think and was fulfilled with the same kind of adrenaline rush I had during fire fights or any combat engagements. “Life is too short to control everything, take a leap of faith and feel the rush of the unknown”. That’s literally what I kept telling myself because I have to live it up for the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice. I know they were there jumping with me and laughing at the hysterical faces I was making.”

-Lawrence Borja, USMC Active Wounded Warrior

On Saturday, October 15th, 2016, Lawrence Borja and Bob Perkins, jumped for their fallen brothers and sisters. They jumped for pride. They jumped for hope.

Do you share our vision in supporting our nation’s heroes and have an event or mission you’d like our help with?

Works Cited

Kimberlin, Joanne. 2015. PilotOnline.com. April 5. Accessed October 18, 2016. http://www.pilotonline.com/app/media/content/pilotonline/2015/vietnam/part4.html.