Black Daggers 'pay back' health care workers with parachute jump
By MICHAEL FUTCH | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: June 13, 2020
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Parachutists floated down from the sky on Friday afternoon in a tribute to health care workers who have been soldiering on through the coronavirus pandemic at Cape Fear Valley Health.
The Black Daggers, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's parachute demonstration team, jumped onto Cape Fear Valley Medical Center's front lawn as a salute to medical professionals.
The jumpers included two soldiers – Staff Sgt. Chris Hardy and Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Klotz – and a National Guardsman, Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Germany.
"We're going to pay back the health care first responders for what they have done during this current situation," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Roger Ross, who remained on the ground during the parachute display.
Trails of red smoke followed their downward spiral from about 3,500 feet up and out of a Cessna P260 aircraft circling in the cloud-clustered blue sky.
Outside the medical center, more than a hundred health system employees and administration officials stood to represent various units of the hospital. On the roof of the highest hospital building, a small group of environmental services employees watched the parachutists as they plummeted downward.
Across busy Owen Drive, another hundred or so bystanders craned their necks upward for the show. Because of strict visitation rules, the public was not able to watch from the hospital campus.
"It was beautiful," said Shonda Ray, 47, a patient care manager at the hospital. "I thought it was very kind for them to come out here and support our health care workers."
The jump by the three soldiers of the 21-member Fort Bragg-based team was at about 2:30 p.m. They landed to words of thanks from some of the spectators who gathered near the hospital's helicopter landing area.
"Phenomenal" was the way 47-year-old service line director Allison Taylor described the exhibition.
"We have been very blessed by what people have done and offered," Taylor said. "We're very blessed to be able to do what we do."
"I think we've all pulled together as a team for the best thing for patients," she said.
Taylor acknowledged that it has not been an easy task during the COVID-19 crisis.
Heather Mason, also a patient care manager, brought her 5-year-old son, Cameron, to watch the jump.
"Since the beginning of all this, the community has wrapped its arms around us and taken care of us," Mason said. "We're so blessed to have support for all this."
"We're able to come in here and help all the patients," she said. "I feel like as a nurse, we've been blessed."
The Black Daggers, made up of volunteers from throughout the Army special operations community, have diverse backgrounds and are in various military specialties, according to a news release.
"The team represents the professionalism and dedication of special operations forces and performs aerial demonstrations in support of U.S. Army Special Operations Command community outreach and recruiting efforts," the release said.
Cape Fear Valley Health is the state's eighth-largest health system serving more than 800,000 people in southeastern North Carolina.
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A video screen grab shows the shadow of a member of the Army's Black Daggers parachute team approaching the landing zone on the lawn of a health care facility in North Carolina on Friday, June 12, 2020, to show appreciation to health care personnel for their service during the coronavirus pandemic.