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By Scott Huddleston -
San Antonio Express-News

Click here to see video

(Kin Man Hut/San Antonio Express-News)

Syndicated columnist Heloise fallls to Earth with tandem parachuter Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott of the Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team at Stinson Airport.


Reaching back into her youth, Heloise recalled her dad, an Air Force pilot, being called up on “TDY” — temporary duty.

“When Daddy comes home and says TDY, you don't ask where; you don't ask why. You don't let Daddy see you cry. It's TDY.”

The syndicated columnist known for household hints composed that poem and recited it to about 800 people at a military family readiness conference in Arizona in 2000. It left some misty-eyed, including a few war-hardened generals.

To thank her for being an advocate for military families, the Army's Golden Knights parachute team took her out Friday on her latest military adventure. In a tandem jump over San Antonio, her hometown, she got her first taste of skydiving at about 13,000 feet.

“Yeeeeha,” she shouted after landing, with Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott guiding her safely to the ground.
She's ridden in a tank at Camp Lejeune, flown in a T-38 at Randolph AFB and pulled a respectable 7.8 Gs with the Navy's famed Blue Angels.

Now, Heloise has racked up another thrilling escapade.

“I would do it again. But only with these guys,” she said.

It's been nearly 50 years since her mother, Heloise Bowles Cruse, started a newspaper column. But even before the first Heloise was famous for her hints, she was organizing a support group for military wives and consoling widows.

Some are surprised that today's Heloise, who resumed the column after her mother died in 1977, has Army ties. But the military mindset of readiness prepared her to give advice on removing stains five minutes before a party, she said.

“Part of it is always being prepared for Plans B, C and D.”

On Friday, she joined Tiger Woods, Bill Murray, Barbara Mandrell and other VIPs who have jumped with the Golden Knights, who are also marking their 50th anniversary and are in town for today's Army All-American Bowl. She and 11 others experienced a roughly 45-second free fall, then a five-minute glide to the ground at Stinson Municipal Airport.

“We like to give civilians a feel for what we do and see the planning and teamwork. They usually enjoy it, and so do we,” said Donna Dixon, Golden Knights spokeswoman.

Heloise said she has fond childhood memories of the Pentagon. Her father, Marshal Cruse, who went by Mike and was a lieutenant colonel, would take her with him to work there on weekends. Heloise skateboarded in the halls and learned to drive in the sprawling parking lot.

It was surreal, she said, to see and smell the Pentagon's charred walls two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

She was about 9, at Hickam AFB in Hawaii, when her father, a pilot during the Cold War era, would go on TDY.

“I couldn't let him see me cry,” she said. “I didn't want to do that to him, to let him leave seeing me sad or angry.”

Her dad died in 2006. Heloise said she still gets emotional seeing a military family on an overseas teleconference.

The only time she took skydiving lessons, in the 1970s, her dad gently urged his “Ponce Pie” not to jump. But she felt safe with the Golden Knights.

“I'm not a thrill-seeker,” she said. “These guys are the best of the best at what they do.”

Her most harrowing exploit was in 1997 in Miramar, Calif., in an F/A-18 Hornet of the Blue Angels. When the pilot did a touch-and-go, a tire from the landing gear blew out and took out an engine. He did an emergency “trap” landing, like on a carrier, using the tail hook to snag an arresting cable to stop.

On Friday, Heloise took relief knowing Elliott, her skydiving partner, had jumped tandem with former President George H.W. Bush. But for a second before they jumped, she wondered, “What am I doing here?”

“Then I remembered that his name was Mike, and my father's name was Mike,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I'm safe.'”

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