'I feel like I’m with him': Gold Star mothers skydive in memory of their sons

Sandee Rouse, Gold Star mother, and Army Sgt. Maj. Jose Vazquez, Special Operations Command Para-Commando, skydive March 13, 2021, in Zephyrhills, Fla. Rouse's son, Pfc. Jim Markwell, died during Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989.


By BRIAN FERGUSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 5, 2021

Two Gold Star mothers experienced a slice of their sons’ best moments, courtesy of Special Operations Command’s elite parachute demonstration team.

Ellen Comfort and Sandee Rouse, whose sons served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, skydived from 13,500 feet last month with the Para-Commandos at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Fla., the Army said Friday.

The tandem jumps allow families of fallen service members to connect more closely with their loved ones, the Army statement said.

Ellen Comfort’s son, Capt. Kyle Comfort, was killed May 8, 2010, by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Sandee Rouse’s son, Pfc. Jim Markwell, died in 1989 during ground operations in Panama.

Both Comfort and Markwell were airborne-qualified soldiers.

“People used to ask him all the time why he wanted to jump,” Rouse said in the statement. “He would say, ‘because of the rush.’ So, I thought I would try and jump out of a perfectly good airplane to feel his rush.”

Ellen Comfort called her son an “adventurous soul and spirit,” and said she thought her son would have encouraged her to take the leap.

“I can’t just sit here and not do anything,” Comfort said. “When I’m around people who are jumping from airplanes and doing all the things he did, I feel like I’m closer to him, I feel like I’m with him.”

Twitter: @BrianFerg57

Army Pfc. Jim Markwell poses in his service uniform in 1989. Markwell was a medic with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and died Dec. 20, 1989, during Operation Just Cause in Panama.