NewsVoice for Veterans


Death from above and the incredible trip to the ground

82nd Airborne veteran tells story of his life
Rob Johansen
Posted at 6:30 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 23:14:24-05

BALTIMORE — Over 20-thousand feet in the air the world looks like a toy train set.

It's a sight Retired Army Veteran Bob Johansen Jr. has seen dozens of times serving in the famed 82nd Airborne Division.

“I joined the Army to be a badass somewhat, ya know, and be a tough guy,” Johansen said. “I was not a desk type of person.”

Johansen Jr. always wanted to be an All American-- he earned that name through years of training.

“Amphibious jungle training down in Panama, went to desert training in Death Valley for two weeks,” said Johansen. “My last unit was a Blackhawk unit.”

He became a Sgt. within 3 years--serving during the cold war he saw the uniforms change from the olive to camo.

“That was the first time they started drones around that period around 1983,” Johansen said. “We had to actually fire a real stinger missile at drones out there in the desert.”

A line of paratroopers ready for a drop is called a stick.

One late night drop he was number 50 of 50-- the end of the stick ended up in branches 20 feet in the air.

“I’m just hanging guys, ya know, I said can you get me down-- I can’t get down. I couldn’t release myself I was all tangled up with all my equipment and everything."

Instead of waiting he cut himself out and fell to the ground.

“Surprisingly the Army charged me for that parachute, and I couldn’t believe it. That’s government issue that’s why you’re called a G.I. Joe your Government Issue. Even yourself is Government Issue.”

$110 bucks-- he got to keep the parachute, and he used it as a decoration at his brother’s wedding.

His 46 jumps also earned him two hip replacements.

When he came to the VA they knew what he did based off of his injuries-- building a personal connection.

“Eating something good or just you know doing something good for yourself. When I leave the VA or after talking to a veteran, I feel so much better about myself and about other people.”

He hasn't jumped since he retired, the memories of the view from above only overshadowed by the men and women he soared with.