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In 1959, the Strategic Army Command Parachute Team was formed by 19 Airborne soldiers from various military units. Brigadier General Joseph Stilwell Jr. gathered the Soldiers with the intent of competing in what was then the new and Soviet dominated sport of skydiving. That year, the all U.S. Army team began representing the United States on the international competition circuit, as well as performing their first demonstration in Danville, Virginia. In 1961, the unit become the United States Army Parachute Team, and by 1962, the team earned the nickname the “Golden Knights” on the competition field of battle. Golden, signifying the gold medals the team had won; Knights, proving that they were world champions and alluding to the fact that the team had “conquered the skies.” 

On Saturday, Sept. 12, local residents have the opportunity to conquer the skies alongside the Golden Knights at the 4th Annual Free Fall to Fight Cancer event, which has a two-fold purpose: to raise funds for the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation and to keep the memory of Zach Grullon alive.

The event, organized by Zach’s parents, local realtors Kevin and Shawn Grullon, is not a memorial, but rather a celebration of Zach’s life.

Zach was an adventurous, strong willed and lovable young man. He graduated from Jack Britt High School in 2010 and was looking forward to a military career. In March 2010, Zach was diagnosed with FHC. He had been dealing with severe stomach pain and nausea for a couple of months, but  it was dismissed because of his intense workouts. After numerous tests and scans a grapefruit size tumor was found on his liver.

A liver resection in April 2010, was unsuccessful because the cancer had spread to many of his lymph nodes and it was inoperable. He then started a rigorous routine of chemotherapy for 8 hours a day every 2-3 weeks. Zach would still continue to work out, live life, play sports and even sky-dived with the world famous Army Golden Knights. After battling for two years, Zach passed away on Jan. 28, 2012.

On the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation website, Zach is quoted, “I may have got cancer because God needs me to be a Warrior for Heaven. I don’t take any pity, I am proud of everything I have been through.”

It is that spirit that his parents have taken to fight the disease that took their son. The annual fundraiser is their way of working to make sure that other parents do not have to face the battle their family did; however, they wanted it to be something that would reflect their son’s spirit and skydiving fits the bill. 

During the event, which is at Skydive Paraclete XL on Doc Brown Road, attendees will have the opportunity to skydive attached to a Golden Knight. You can get a full video and pictures of your jump to share. All Knights participating in the event are off duty or retired and are volunteering their time to this worthy cause. 

Tandem jumps with video are $350 and tandem jumps without video are $225. While waiting on your jump, or simply watching the action, you can participate in number of fun activities, including live music and a deejay, water slides and jump houses for kids, food, a silent auction and raffles for great prizes. 

The event kicks-off at 9 a.m. To reserve a spot on the plane, sign up prior to Sept. 12 by contacting Kevin or Shawn at grullonteam@gmail.com or by phone at 910-257-3027. 

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