Vet skydives as final hurrah before his health deteriorates
MARSHALL, Wis. — Skydiving is something on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but for Tom Riley, his jump on Friday at Seven Hills Skydivers meant much more than you might think.
“I have metastatic melanoma. I lost an eye to it. Last February, I had surgery. It has metastasized. It’s in my left femur, my lungs and my liver now,” Riley said.
Riley served in the military 30 years ago and has been skydiving several times during his service. Before his health deteriorates and before he goes through chemotherapy, he wanted one last jump, but this time would be his first tandem skydive. Traveling all the way from Hastings, Minnesota with the help of his family, he got to do it. All expenses were covered, his family watched him the whole way down.
“Just the rush of stepping out of the plane and there it is. You’re dropping 120 mph. The earth is coming towards ya. The wind’s screaming. You’re just free,” he said.
This moment wasn’t just special for him, but also for the ones who made it all happen.
“It’s surreal,” said Linda Haas, Riley’s cousin and the one who organized his jump. “It’s this moment where he wanted to go skydiving a long time ago and it’s always, like, ‘Yeah we’ll go. We’ll go,’ And now it’s here. It’s happening. It’s just so much fun to see the smile on his face and to know this is what he’s wanted.”
“Knowing this infliction and the life changes he’s going through are affecting him in a big way, being able to provide an opportunity and a bit of relief taking away from the mental and physical strain, albeit just a few seconds, that has a profound impact,” said Russ Haas, Linda’s husband and Riley’s skydiving instructor.
Riley’s experience was his last “hooah” before embarking on his medical journey.
“I’m dumbfounded,” he said. “I’m just speechless, and for people that know me, I’m never speechless. Having so many people care to put this together for me, I’ve got a family here now.”
Riley said he wanted to give a huge thank you to all the staff at Seven Hills Skydivers, 1st HOOAH of Minnesota, 4th HOOAH of Wisconsin, and family members who organized his jump.
I bet this guy’s Friday plans are better than yours! Tom was diagnosed with cancer and before his health deteriorates, he wanted to skydive. Well he gets to do it and it’s all paid for! Tune in tonight to #News3 to hear Tom’s story and watch his journey as he jumps from a plane! pic.twitter.com/cTQt29QWxI
— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) August 3, 2018
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