A Double Amputee’s Journey to Freefall

Skydiving student and military veteran Jonathon Blank, who lost his legs when an improvised explosive device detonated next to him in Afghanistan in 2010.

Editor’s Note: In October 2010, Sgt. Jonathon Blank of U.S. Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company lost both his legs in an improvised explosive device blast while deployed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Blank recently obtained his Skydiving A License, the certification required for jumping without supervision, through a program offered by non-profit Operation Enduring Warrior in partnership with AXIS Flight School in Eloy, Arizona. Here are some images and videos from that journey.

Instructors from Axis Flight School assist Jonathon Blank as he begins a skydive in Arizona. [Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight]
As part of instruction, skydiving instructors ensure Blank pulls his parachute at the proper altitude.  [Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight]
Before he was wounded in Afghanistan, Blank had trained to perform static line jumps as a Force Reconnaissance Marine. [Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight]
As part of skydiving training program through Operation Enduring Warrior, Blank was fitted for a special rig tailored to fit his body and injuries. (Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight)
“Since I have no legs, my landing has to be spot on,” Blank said. “For me, my goal is to land like an airplane.” [Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight]
“I figured that the best way for me to reduce that risk of having an impact on my tailbone, on my lower body, was to come in like a slide,” Blank said. “If I do that correctly every time, I can land like a plane. There is no bump, there’s no bounce, there’s no impact.” [Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight]
“I had always dreamed about getting back into it but didn’t quite know how,” said Blank, who trained for low-level static line jumps in the Marine Corps before he was injured in Afghanistan. “It’s been just really amazing to have that connection back to something to my previous self, and what I used to do. And also, I guess I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and it just makes you feel alive.” [Courtesy: Niklas Daniel, AXIS Flight]


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