(You can read part 13 here)

Dedicated to SOFREP’s own sister Suzanne D. for her extraordinary personal generosity in my family’s time of desperation.

A late entry from part 13: notes page from the train movement

Our jump master stood and banged his hands together several times and called out sharply: “ATTENTION EVERYONE, HEY, ATTENTION!!” He stood in the center of our aircraft with his arms outstretched, expression grim and sour, and waited until all jumpers eyes were on him.

He touched the thumb of his right hand to his right cheek just next to his mouth, fingers were extended and joined. He paused. At this moment I imagined myself in his position, and, to breach the palpable tension, I would wiggle my fingers and hollah: “NANNY NANNY BOO-BOO!!”

Or… maybe not.

He slowly rotated his hand over his nose and mouth turning his head from side to side to ensure both sides of the aircraft could see him. This was the signal to swing our oxygen masks up and lock them in over our faces and begin breathing pure oxygen for the next 30 minutes.

I glanced around. The aircraft was schmeared in a low ruddy light to preserve night vision; this drop was night-time High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drop, at an altitude above breathable air. I postulated that some of the officers in my old unit headquarters could sustain respiration at this altitude without the O2, as they were used to sitting in offices with rarified atmospheres all day due to the many oxygen thieves.

That made me grin. DON’T grin asshole, not with your mask on. Never move your face with the mask on lest IT happen. I sat still and waited… waited…