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Veterans, service members skydive at Oceanfront during 1st ‘Land in the Sand’ event

Dozens of current and former service members parachuted onto the sands of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on Saturday after jumping thousands of feet from a plane.

Skydive Suffolk partnered with several nonprofits to host its first “Land in the Sand” Veterans Day event, allowing veterans and service members to experience the thrill for free. Nonprofits that sponsored tandem jumps included United Service Organizations, Naval Special Operations Foundation, Operation Enduring Warrior, Veterans United and Arne Aviation.

Mike Manthey, who owns Skydive Suffolk with wife Laura, said his company has participated in similar events, but this year marks the first they’ve hosted for Veterans Day. The goal was to provide jumps for 40-50 veterans and service members who loaded the plane at the Military Aviation Museum’s airfield, about 25 minutes from where they landed.

“Hey, it’s an accomplishment. They got over a fear,” Manthey said. “A couple of the guys today, they’re like, ‘I just jumped out of an airplane. There’s nothing else I can’t do.’ So just seeing that kind of motivation or that kind of attitude in people makes it worth it.”

Army veteran Jamie Curtis, 28, experienced skydiving for the first time as a civilian. He’s the assistant program manager for the skydiving program at Operation Enduring Warrior.

The former paratrooper also invited Nick Fields, who’s still in the Army, to Saturday’s event. Curtis said as soon as the plane’s door opened, he was reminded of sitting behind gunners with Fields while deployed in Turkey.

“It’s good to just free your mind out here a little bit, let go and have fun,” Fields said.

“And it’s OK to smile,” Curtis added.

Fields, who’s stationed near Washington D.C., said he enjoys the adrenaline rush in the seconds before landing. It’s different than jumping as a paratrooper because they typically use static lines. And since the parachute in a tandem jump is smaller, jumpers come in faster when landing, he said.

“There’s always that tiny little bit of nervousness no matter how many times you do it,” Fields said. “But it’s also a relaxing experience. The fall is super smooth.”

Richard Herrera, 42, said it was his second time skydiving. The Navy veteran said this was better — he was less nervous and could take in more of the experience. His said his favorite part was the freefall before the parachute is deployed.

Natalie Anderson, 757-732-1133,