Who has Packed your Parachute?

It is somewhat of a tradition at the start of each year that the Year 12 students commence the ‘count down’ of days left at School.

This fills the girls with much excitement about the thought of no longer wearing a School uniform and drawing to a close their lives restrained by bells and the weight of what seems like never ending assessment tasks. The thrill of finally reaching this important milestone is now even closer for our girls when their ‘count down’ of days reached single figures this week.

Whilst the excitement heightens at this time of year, so too does a mixture of emotions – sadness about closing this chapter in their lives, a nervous energy and a fixed focus on exam dates and the realisation they are just weeks away from the end of School.

In the coming weeks, our School will again enjoy the opportunity to acknowledge the leadership of our Year 12 students and to thank them for their contribution to School life. The Valedictory Dinner and Years 9 to 12 Speech Night both provide important occasions to celebrate their academic, co-curricular and service achievements.

I share for you below a story I spoke about with the Year 12 girls this week at their Year level Assembly. The story was of a US Navy jet pilot, Charles Plumb who fought during the Vietnam War. After 75 combat missions, Plumb’s plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile and he was ejected from the jet and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent six years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He survived this ordeal and is still alive today. One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said:

“You’re Charles Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier, Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in both surprise and gratitude. The man shook his hand and said,

“I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If the parachute you packed hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Former Navy Fighter Pilot and an ex-POW, Charles Plumb

Former Navy Fighter Pilot and an ex-POW, Charles Plumb

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the man he had met in the restaurant. He kept wondering what he had looked like all those years ago at the Army Base in Vietnam. He wondered how many times he might have seen him and not even said, ‘good morning, how are you?’ or anything at all, because you see, he was a fighter pilot and the man was just a sailor. Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands the fate of someone he did not know.

Like Plumb, I asked the girls to wonder about the people who packed their parachute. Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.

Who packed your parachute today? (I don’t mean your lunch!) and Who helped get you here (to the end of Year 12)?

Across our lives, we need many kinds of parachutes. Plumb would have called upon his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute and his spiritual parachute to support him before finally reaching safety on land.

Sometimes at School, and in life, we can miss what is truly important. We may fail to say hello, please or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment or just do something nice for no reason. I hope over the coming weeks our Year 12 girls take the time to recognise and thank the people who have packed all their parachutes.

Michelle Carroll


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