The U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team headlined the 2008 Chicago Air and Water Show along the city's spectacular lakefront Aug. 15-17 and kicked off the 3-day event with a tandem jump by Chicago native Bill Murray.

Flying at 12,500 feet the 57 year-old comedian and actor jumped out of the Golden Knights' C-31 Fokker 'Friendship' aircraft harnessed to Tandem Team member, Staff Sgt. Joe Jones. Reaching speeds of 120 mph Murray and Jones dropped towards Chicago's magnificent lakefront where spectators had gathered along North Avenue Beach to take in the day's activities. Once safely landed, Jones asked Murray if he felt strong. Pointing to the Army Strong! logo decorating Jones' sleeve Murray responded, "Not that strong."

Murray's jump was in honor and support of the United Service Organization of Illinois.

After Murray's tandem jump, the Golden Knights quickly packed their gold and black 'Army' parachutes and headed back to Gary International Airport to prepare for a twilight jump. Flares and smoke trailed behind the Knights as they fell towards the illuminated city below and simultaneously maneuvered into geometric free-fall formations. The stunning performance helped wrap-up the opening day of the 50th annual Air and Water Show.

The ensuing days of the show, the Golden Knights Gold Demonstration Team displayed their maneuverability and accurateness with four performances. Just moments after completing a two-mile jump, a Soldier narrated each performance which consisted of separate maneuvers of the body while falling at speeds exceeding 120 mph. "The Army Golden Knights are a valiant representation of all the brave men and women who serve our nation," Lisa Moeller, President & COO, USO of Illinois, said. "At the Chicago Air & Water Show, it was a privilege to witness their precision and skill on the Homefront that they then apply when called back to duty on the frontlines."

Team members also interacted with crowds surrounding Army recruitment booths following their performances. Sgt. Daniel Cook, Staff Sgt. Noah Watts and Sgt. Steve Robertson taught future Soldiers and the public how to properly pack a parachute. Engaging in such recruitment activities helps bring a human element to the celebrity-like team, according to Sgt. 1st Class Dan Hendrix. The entire team also signed autographs for eager fans.

The men and women of the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachuting team enjoy fulfilling their mission to their country. "Not one [team member] joined the Army to be a Golden Knight, they all joined to be a Soldier," Hendrix said. But, according to Tandem Team member Staff Sgt. Joe Abeln, and fellow Golden Knights, "This is the best job in the Army."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16