Writing a proclamation would not be sufficient. Holding a mere press conference just was not bold enough. The answer – jump out of an airplane. But this was not just any airplane and this was not a random jump into a wide open field.
The Lieutenant Governor took part in a tandem jump onto the state’s Capitol Mall with the elite United States Army Parachute Team, dubbed the “Golden Knights.” The aircraft, a rare C-31 Friendship, piloted by Al Aben and CW5 Jeff Sopp took the Lieutenant Governor, along with seven members of the “Knights” to an altitude of 13,500 ft. and circled the Capitol several times to get correct wind readings before the jumpers exited the craft and dropped free-fall for close to a minute before they deployed parachutes and landed safely on the Mall.
Prettner Solon said her first time jump was the least she could do to honor and support the country’s men and women currently in combat.
“I can only imagine what it’s like to be deployed,” said Prettner Solon. “This is the very least I can symbolically do to show support to the troops deployed and the families left behind.”
The 66-year-old Prettner Solon, who was strapped to Staff Sgt. Aaron Figel for the jump, said though she had never parachuted before, she felt very relaxed and took it on as a bit of a challenge.
“The only time I jumped before this was when I jumped rope,” joked Prettner Solon. “I remember when President George (H.W.) Bush jumped at 80-something years of age, so I said, ‘I can do this.’”
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher “Ace” Acevedo said it was an honor to jump with Minnesota’s second in command.
“It’s awesome to be able to jump with the Lieutenant Governor into the Capitol Mall,” said Acevedo who was taking part in his 1,753rd jump. “Any time we’re backed by government (officials) it lets us know the American people have our backs.”
Sgt. Trey Martin, who has more than 800 jumps to his credit said believe it or not, he has a fear of heights.
“But it’s something about having a parachute on my back that lets me know I’m safe,” said Martin.
But jumping from an airplane is certainly dangerous. Just ask “Golden Knight,” Staff Sgt. Kevin Pregraves. Pregraves, who has more than 1,400 jumps to his credit, suffered a broken back (fractures to his L4 and L5 vertebrae) due to a missed landing.
“I jumped nine weeks after the accident,” said Pregraves, who said the accident was a result of a poor decision on his part. “But I came right back because I’m ‘Army Strong.’”
The Lieutenant Governor’s jump went off without a hitch and once on the ground, Prettner Solon held a news conference praising the team and all of the U.S. men and women in combat.