FORT KNOX, Ky. — She didn’t have time to be afraid.
The airplane doors opened, the wind rushed in her face, and moments later Milton-Union teacher Evelyn Brady was falling through the sky.
Although she’s usually terrified of heights, when she was offered the chance to skydive with the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, Brady knew it was the sort of once in a lifetime adventure she couldn’t turn down.
“I’m thinking, I survived breast cancer, I was septic during delivery with my daughter and almost died. And I thought, I have this opportunity that other people don’t get,” Brady said.
The event offered educators the chance to spend time getting to know soldiers and learn more about the opportunities offered to students who join the Army. Brady was one of five Ohio teachers invited to take the leap.
The experience was deeply personal for Brady, not just because she faced one of her biggest fears, but because her daughter Morgan, a 2016 Milton-Union graduate, recently enlisted in the Army.
“I thought we were talking about ROTC, turns out she wanted to go active,” Brady said. Her daughter leaves for basic training at Fort Sill in August.
As her daughter got more involved with the process and started going to future soldier training events, a recruiter reached out to Brady and asked if she would be interested in jumping out of a plane.
“My little, tiny daughter is getting ready to go to basic and I’m going to say no to this? So I automatically said yes,” she recalled.
The recruiter nominated her for the event, and she was chosen out of about 35 other candidates from area school districts.
Brady was in good company that day — country music artist and television personality Kellie Pickler had also been invited to jump with the Golden Knights. The footage of Pickler’s jump will be aired on her CMT reality show at a future date.
“I actually met her in the restroom,” Brady laughed. The two bonded over the American Idol contestant’s decision to shave her head in support of her friend with breast cancer and how meaningful that was to Brady as a cancer survivor. “We both talked about how liberating it was to be bald. She was so normal and down to earth.”
As well as Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton of Kentucky and her husband Doyle Isaak, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary.
“She sat around and talked to people, you would have sworn she was somebody’s mom just sitting there,” Brady said. “Very approachable and nice as she could be.”
Brady arrived at Fort Knox early that morning, feeling oddly calm, she said. Until she boarded the plane and realized she would be the first to jump.
“At that point, it started to seem real,” she said, laughing. “The air is coming so fast into your face, it’s really hard to breathe.”
In the moment, though, strapped to her tandem partner Sgt. James Hackett, Brady said she didn’t have time to think about the fact that she was about to step out of an airplane.
“We stood up and we were out the door. I screamed briefly and then I thought, ‘wait, this is awesome,’” she recounted. “I was so awestruck.”
After that, Brady said, it just felt like they were floating. She had a bird’s eye view of Fort Knox, something most people will never get to see.
“I’ve landed harder on my couch than we landed on the ground,” she said. “It was amazing, I’ll never forget it. I want to do it again.”
Reach Cecilia Fox at [email protected] or (937) 552-2205.