One day behind schedule, two friends, two American heroes, achieved their long-held dream of skydiving, June 21. Hiroshi “Hershey” H. Miyamura, a Medal of Honor recipient, and Joseph Lawrence Annello, a Silver Star recipient, have a unique and lasting bond.
The men have been honored for their valor and participation in battle in Korea and both were prisoners of war. After sustaining extensive injuries, Annello was left by Chinese soldiers for dead, but Miyamura refused to leave his friend behind. He carried Annello over 10 miles to a North Korean POW camp. Annello and Miyamura were placed in different camps. Annello escaped shortly after capture, but Miyamura was held for over two years. Since their reunion over half a century ago, shortly after Miyamura was presented with his Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the two men have been inseparable.
When Maj. (retired) Jeff Falkel, U.S. Army and Gold Star Father, and his business partner Alexandria Maltezo, mentioned skydiving to Miyamura during a recent visit to his home, he jumped on the opportunity. And, of course his best friend Annello insisted he would be right there beside him. Both men explained after the jump that this experience had been the realization of a lifelong ambition.
“It was just something we wanted to be able to do for Hershey and Joe because of everything they do for the country and veterans … they give back and we wanted to give them opportunity to do something they didn’t get a chance to do,” Falker said.
Sgt. 1st Class (retired) Greg Windmiller, Golden Knight, owner and tandem instructor at Superior Flight Solutions in Raeford, North Carolina was strapped to Miyamura for the jump from approximately 13,500 feet.
“The initial jump (out of the plane) … was really exhilarating, and the rush of the air, and floating there like a bird,” explained Annello.
Family and friends witnessed the historic jump along with three cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Visiting Fort Bragg during a summer leadership program, the cadets had the opportunity to meet and speak with Miyamura and were invited to attend the jump.
“One of the big lessons he said is you never give up. You don’t lose until you give up,” said Jesse Campanella.
The cadets also helped escort the tandem jumpers off the field once they had landed.
Miyamura was accompanied by three generations of his Family; Capt. Marissa Regan, United States Air Force, jumped tandem alongside her grandfather Miyamura. Cheering them on were his daughter Marianne Miyamura, and three of his grandchildren, Midori, 12, Thomas, two, and Emi, one. Miyamura’s late wife Terry was also considered in the planning of the event. The original jump date was June 20, which would have been their 68th wedding anniversary. Overall, Miyamura’s Family appreciated the event.
“It means a lot to … her (Midori). She is definitely gonna remember it, and her and her great grandpa have a special bond, and it means a lot to my daughter to jump with her grandpa,” said Marianne.
Windmiller has plans to submit a record of the jump to the Guinness Book of World Records, as Miyamura is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient to skydive at the age of 92.