‘Golden’ opportunity: Couple chosen to jump with elite Army team

Dave Lein, Editor

Courtesy photo

Doug and Jeanette Gillespie offer a thumbs-up following their successful skydiving adventure earlier this month. The couple was nominated for the opportunity based on their community involvement with youth, service to military families and work with the Helping Heroes Kids organization, which Doug founded.   

Courtesy photo

Local resident Jeanette Gillespie (pictured), along with her husband Doug, were nominated and chosen to skydive earlier this month with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team.


REGION – It’s not every day that you get a chance to jump out of an airplane thousands of feet above the ground.

But when that opportunity presented itself earlier this month, Bellaire couple Doug and Jeanette Gillespie, ahem, jumped at the prospect to join the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team.

How did it happen?

Well, like most heart-thumping experiences, there’s a story behind the adrenaline rush.

Let’s start at the beginning – or at the “first” beginning, according to Jeanette.

“Doug and I dated in 1991,” Jeanette said. “He was in the Army (and was active for 17 years). I was in college. When he received his papers to deploy to Korea, we each went our own ways. Fast forward a few years – thanks to social media – Doug found me again, reached out, and we just celebrated our third anniversary.

“There is, of course, a longer version,” she said, “but this sums it up.”

Doug works as the maintenance and grounds director at Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, and this summer will mark his 20th year there. He also started a nonprofit called Helping Heroes Kids, Inc. (HHK) to assist children of veterans.   

Jeanette had been living near Grand Rapids, running a business for 25 years, and moved up north permanently last summer. She is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Schmidt and also helps Doug run HHK.

For their efforts in continuing to help others, especially military families, the couple received notification that they had been nominated for a unique honor – the chance to skydive with the elite Golden Knights.

“Our friend Steve Kelbel works for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Lansing,” Jeanette explained. “The Recruiting Battalion (U.S. Army Recruiting Michigan, #GLRBGoldenKnights19) was looking for people to be nominated for this unique opportunity who have active involvement within their communities, specifically around young people, to help spread the word about the enormous benefits the Army could potentially provide in securing employment and life success with the variety of jobs available.

“Steve nominated Doug because of his prior military experience, his employment at Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, and founding of Helping Heroes Kids. I was also vetted because of my involvement in HHK, volunteering at Camp Hayo-Went-Ha and numerous business connections.”

The honor and opportunity required no payment or sponsorship by any group.

So, on Tuesday, June 4, they took the plunge, literally, about 13,500 feet above Selfridge Air National Guard Base, near Mt. Clemens.

Read the full story in our regular edition of The Review. To subscribe to the paper for just $34 a year, which includes access to our full online e-edition, please go to the subscription page on this website at: http://www.antrimreview.net/subscribe/




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