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Who packs YOUR parachute?

Charles Plumb

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane as destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“ I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of the man hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory-he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called
on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.

As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute.

And now for the rest of the story...

by Paul Galanti                                                                                     

Charlie Plumb was one of my plebes at Annapolis during the summer of 1960. Later I flew a couple of check flights with him in Pensacola when I was a primary flight instructor. In June 1967, the “V” had some East German visitors filming “Pilots in Pajamas” in our camp. I was in the October 1967 Life Magazine cover “Clean & Neat” cell plotting how to foil any attempts to use us for propaganda when I heard a clatter outside the room.

 I ran to the window (it had fixed slats and was the only cell I lived in from which I could look out) and saw a guard followed by a POW going under the window. As they passed out of sight, another POW appeared moving more slowly. As he passed under the window, I whispered, “I’m Paul Galanti. Who are you?” The POW looked startled and pressed on to get his food.

 When they returned he fell very far behind his cellmate and the guard, glanced up at the window and whispered back, “I’m Charlie Plumb. Thanks for not washing me out of the check ride, you S.O.B.”


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