Medal of Honor Recipient Patrick Brady’s Jump With the Golden Knights

medal of honor

US Army Medal of Honor recipient Patrick Brady and a Golden Knight, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Reis, make a parachute jump on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, near Knoxville, Tennessee. US Army photo.

US Army photo.

Before he retired from the US Army, Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady performed some pretty daring feats as a pilot — like the day he evacuated 51 seriously wounded soldiers pinned down in Vietnam.

On Jan. 6, 1968, near Chu Lai, he braved ferocious enemy fire that destroyed two of the three helicopters he used that single day to rescue them. Brady’s repeated and unflinching valor earned him the nation’s highest battlefield award, the Medal of Honor.

But on Thursday, Sept. 8, near Tennessee’s Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport, the 86-year-old Seattle native did something in an aircraft he’d never done before.

“This was my first jump,” he told Coffee or Die Magazine, shortly after plummeting 12,500 feet from a perfectly good De Havilland DHC Canada 8-315, a plane often nicknamed the “Dash 8.”

medal of honor

Medal of Honor recipients Ty Carter, second from left, and Patrick Brady, second from right, took a group photo following their tandem free-fall jumps with the US Army Golden Knights. They took off from the Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport, located east of Knoxville, Tennessee, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. US Army photo.

US Army photo.

“It was an experience that added another dimension of beauty to being up in the air,” Brady said.

It all started when the Congressional Medal of Honor Society asked its members if they’d like to try parachuting during its annual convention in Knoxville. They offered one-way tickets out the door while in a tandem free-fall with members of the Golden Knights, the US Army’s touring parachute team.

“I thought, ‘Good Lord, you can’t pass up an opportunity like that,’” Brady said. “So, I volunteered.”

Fellow Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter wanted to go, too.

medal of honor

US Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on Jan. 6, 1968. He used three different UH-1H ambulance helicopters, having to switch them out due to enemy fire, to carry out several evacuation missions that saved the lives of 51 seriously wounded men near Chu Lai in the Republic of Vietnam. US Army photos. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

US Army photos. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Reis was Brady’s tandem partner. He told Coffee or Die the retired two-star cracked a lot of jokes before the jump but remained very focused on everything he needed to do when he left the aircraft.

Reis has a little experience with parachutes. He’s recorded more than 2,800 jumps in his 18-year military career, the last six spent on the demonstration team. But he said getting to leap with an American hero like Brady was an honor, one made even more special by a shared camaraderie of service in the armed forces.

“And that’s exactly how he came across to me with a little bit of humor thrown in there, too,” Reis said.

Brady told Coffee or Die he’s experienced “pretty fast” descents inside a helicopter’s cockpit, but he never really felt the outside elements battering against him.

medal of honor

Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter and US Army Golden Knight Sgt. 1st Class Keith Pierce parachute on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. US Army photo.

US Army photo.

He got the total experience on Thursday while falling at roughly 155 mph, which “turns ya every way but loose.”

But then the chute blossomed, a feeling Brady said was like a “lullaby,” slowly rocking him from side to side under the silk while Reis guided them to a soft landing.

For him, it brought back childhood memories of playing paratroopers, with kids clutching umbrellas as they jumped off rooftops, a scenario inspired by a hometown hero.

“Well, that didn’t work too good,” Brady said. “The umbrella went the wrong way, and we hit the ground pretty damn hard, but we wanted to do it.”

He lauded the Golden Knights as “drop-dead professionals” who gave him a rare “sensation that you don’t get in a helicopter or an airplane.”

“And I’m jealous these guys get to do that every day,” Brady said.

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Joshua is a staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, Joshua grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. Joshua went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married, has two children, and is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, which is where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.
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