A Middletown father is working to give veterans a chance to soar across the same sky that was part of his son’s final goodbye.
James Robinson Sr., president and CEO of Combat Outpost Robinson, partnered his non-profit with Middletown’s Start Skydiving business to provide free tandem skydiving to a handful of Ohio veterans Sunday at Middletown Regional Airport.
The event is aligned with Combat Outpost Robinson’s mission help and support Ohio’s post 9/11 combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, Robinson said.
“(It) kind of brings back the camaraderie and brings back what they all did together whenever they was serving,” he said. “It’s an adrenaline-rush type of an event for them and it gets them back to what they was used to and it get them the help to talk with each other. It’s like a therapy between all of them.”
Robinson said it’s his hope that organizing such events will create a support group among veterans that attend Combat Outpost Robinson events and reduce the number of veteran suicides.
Formed in late 2016, Combat Outpost Robinson also offers help and support to the caregivers of those with PTSD or TBI.
All such efforts are being carried out in remembrance of Robinson’s son, Sgt. James C. Robinson Jr., 27, of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, who developed symptoms of PTSD during two tours of duty in Iraq before he was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 during this third tour of duty.
Robinson said running Combat Outpost Robinson and holding an event at the same airport that saw the skydiver-accompanied return of his son’s body is “like therapy.”
“And it’s … my way of paying it forward,” he said.
U.S. Navy veteran and 14-year Air Force reservist Dave Reagan, 44, of Centerville, a 14-year Air Force reservist with the 445th Airlife Wing out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said being allowed to jump from a Cessna Caravan on Sunday was “a huge outreach initiative” on the part of Robinson’s group.
“Being in the military, being a veteran is all about service, so these guys are continuing to serve those of us who have served,” Reagan said. “(Skydiving) has been on my bucket list for a while … so this is a nice opportunity.”
U.S. Army and National Guard veteran Jay Winkleman, 46, of Springfield, said he previously went skydiving 14 times in the military, recreationally and once as part of Warrior Weekend to Remember.
“Being with the U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club, we try to team up with organization’s like Jim’s because there’s so many about there that people don’t know about,” Winkleman said. “We like help getting the word out. We like to help scratch their backs (and) they’ll scratch our backs and support and get the word out about our events. It just means the world when the community comes out in great numbers … and that they still care, they still worry about our veterans.”
U.S. Navy veteran Donald Tucker, 57, of Wilmington, said he has enormous amount of respect for Combat Outpost Robinson and labeled the experience “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“It was extremely cool,” Tucker said, he said, a broad smile breaking out across his face. “I had a great time. I’d recommend it for anybody.”
Jumping with fellow veterans is important because “that’s the only people they can relate to,” Robinson said.
“They can talk to those guys — they’re brothers in arms — about stuff that they can’t talk to the general population about because people that’s never been there, they’ve got no clue what these guys have been through,” he said. “They kind of bottle it up, keep it to themselves, so by them getting together at events like this … they’re creating friendships and bonds and they can tell their stories to each other where they would not be telling it to anybody else.
“That in and of itself is therapeutic.”