Many veterans of war return home to find the rigors of daily life to be quite a bit different from the on and off adrenaline flow they sustained for months or years while deployed. It could be argued that the rapid transitions from relaxation to panicked survival experienced by war fighters on the front lines conditions them, over time, to need that adrenaline in order to feel “normal.” Others postulate that the type of person that’s well suited for combat is likely the same sort that feels the need to push their limits once they’ve returned home.
Regardless of the reasoning behind it, veterans often seem to find themselves risking life and limb even without an enemy on the horizon, and Bryson William Verdun Hayes is no different.
Hayes served in the British Army in World War II, where he participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He would go on to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French government, their highest military decoration, for his heroism in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Normandy, France.
With such accomplishments behind him, one couldn’t blame Hayes, who goes by Verdun, for relaxing in his senior years, but the 101-year-old has no such plans. At 90 years old, he decided that he wanted to experience skydiving, but was ultimately talked out of it by his late wife, who worried his body wouldn’t be able to withstand the landing. At 100 years old, Hayes jumped out of an airplane for the first time, and on Sunday, at 101 years old and 38 days, Hayes became the oldest person in history to successfully sky dive.
The previous record for oldest skydiver, held by Canada’s Armand Gendreau, was 101 years and 3 days old.
Four generations of Hayes’ family participated in putting the jump together, which is part of a fundraising effort for the British Royal Legion, a charity that supports military and veteran community members. He was joined on the jump by his son, grand son, great-grandson, and great-granddaughter.
“I have decided to go for the world record for the oldest male Tandem Sky Dive on the 13th May 2017 at Dunkeswell Airfield near Honiton,” Hayes wrote for his fundraising site. “The Royal British Legion is close to my heart, my father having served in WW1 and myself, Brothers and Sister in WW2. Any donations would be welcomed.”
Most skydivers jump from an altitude of about 12,500 feet, which provides about a minute of freefall when laying in the “belly-down” position. Hayes, not one to shy away from a challenge, opted instead to jump from 15,000 feet, allowing himself more time in the air and creeping up toward the ceiling a skydiver can safely jump from without needing to carry a source of oxygen with them.
Lin Tattersall, Hayes daughter, spoke to reporters prior to the attempt, saying, “He’s made up his mind and he wants to do it again, and I am extremely proud of the reasoning behind it.”
When asked if he was excited to set the record, Hayes looked directly at the camera and responded, “Absolutely.”
SkyDive Buzz recorded the event for consideration from the Guinness Book of World Records, who has yet to verify the record officially. In the video, you can see Hayes’ tandem jump (while attached to another skydiver) before landing and shouting, “hooray!”
Hayes set a goal of raising a thousand pounds ($1,292), but more than doubled his goal by the time of his jump at $3,470.
Although the jump has already occurred, Hayes’ donation site remains open for anyone who would like to submit to the cause.
You can watch the video of his record-setting jump below.
Images courtesy of SkyDive Buzz, Daily Express