Sat. Feb 16th, 2019

Veteran paratrooper, SkyHawks team member share stories, handshakes in Paradise

It’s been almost 70 years ago since Corp. Douglas Parmiter of St. John’s jumped out of a plane.

But watching the Canadian military planes fly overhead Monday, it felt like just yesterday.

A former paratrooper — who was a member of 1st battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment from 1950-53, serving in the Korean War — the 86-year-old said he would love to be up there again.

“I think I’ve got enough guts today. I’m in that mood right now…,” he said, laughing. “Oh, but I can’t even jump off a chair anymore.”

Parmiter was one of dozens who turned out Monday afternoon at Paradise Park for what was supposed to be a show by the Canadian Armed Forces parachute demonstration team, the SkyHawks.

The show was initially set for last Friday, but was postponed due to poor weather conditions. And while many gathered again on Monday, the low ceiling prevented it from happening once again. It’s rescheduled for Tuesday.

Formed in 1971, the SkyHawks has performed around the world showing their impressive and complex aerobatic parachute formations. Based in Trenton, Ont., the specially trained team makes several stops across the country to demonstrate their skills and to share information about the team.

Parmiter said it was important for him to be there.

When he heard through media reports that the SkyHawks would be here, he grabbed his maroon beret and put on his Parachutist Badge, a lapel pin with wings, and came out to Paradise with some family members and friends.

“I really wanted to come out today to remember my buddies who have passed on …,” he said. “Everything for me is one day at a time now, but I really wanted to be here.

“The SkyHawks, these guys are a special bunch. They train day in and day out.”

As Parmiter spoke with The Telegram, SkyHawks’ public affairs officer Capt. Derek Reid approached him to welcome him and shake his hand.

It turned into a long conversation between the two, who, while sitting on a nearby picnic table, chatted about the difference and similarities between paratroopers today and years ago.

Parmiter asked about such things as the beret colours, the terminology used by paratroopers these days, the heights for jumping and the wind limits.

He also shared a few stories of his service as he took out a small album from his pocket to show Reid. It contained several black and white photos of when he served in the 1950s.

“It’s really an honour (to have him here),” Reid said of Parmiter. “As we travel coast to coast with the Canadian Armed Forces parachute team, it’s our opportunity to connect with Canadians, be it people who don’t have much experience with the military or folks who have served themselves.”

Parmiter said he made life-long friends through his service with the military.

“I miss my buddies,” he said, getting emotional. “They were the best.”

He said he still stays in contact with one of his fellow paratrooper friends, who lives in Ontario and is almost 90 years old. After 68 years, they still call each other often.

“We joined (the military) the same time — Aug. 17, 1950,” Parmiter said, smiling. “We called it Army Buddy Day. I called him this year and said ‘Happy Buddy Army Day.’“

“Wow, that’s amazing …,” Reid replied.

“We got this far,” Parmiter said.

Reid said the unique experiences in the military help form friendships and camaraderie.

“It’s a special bond in doing very unique things together — tough times and unique things like jumping out of plane,” he said.

Parmiter said he and his comrades were there for each other to encourage each other in times of hesitation.

“The plane doesn’t stop in the air,” he said, laughing, “so, we’d give them a little tap and say, ‘Go, buddy, go!’“

Parmiter said he misses his time as a paratrooper and has some advice for young people to enjoy life while you can.

“Nobody really wants to retire. You’ve really got to find something you want to do,” Parmiter said before smiling and turning to Reid to ask, “Unless, you want to take me back?”

It drew laughter between the two before they parted with a handshake.

— Via The Telegram

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