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102-year-old WWII veteran Millie Bailey skydives: Our one assurance against fear

Tandem skydivers in freefall
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A 102-year-old World War II Army veteran is still working on her “bucket list” but now has one less item to worry about.  

Inspired by late President George H.W. Bush, Vivian “Millie” Bailey went skydiving this past Sunday. The former president made the leap at the age of ninety. “I was inspired by the fact that he did it,” Millie said. “The fact that a person at that age could do the jump.” 

During the filming of a show featuring her life, Millie was asked if there was one thing she would like to do that she hasn’t had the chance to accomplish. “You are not going to believe it,” she laughed. “The thing I’d like to do is do a parachute jump like President Bush did.”

The production company decided to help her realize her dream.

As was the case with President Bush, a skydiving instructor jumped out of the plane with Millie, holding onto her during the descent. 

After her safe landing, Millie said, “I was scared for one minute, it felt like I was tumbling and then I thought, somebody is holding onto me.”  

An age-defying spirit

I have no desire to go skydiving. That is not on my bucket list.  

But, Millie is amazing in other ways that inspire me.  

Even as a centenarian, Millie works on care packages for soldiers overseas. Her nephew estimates she has sent over fourteen tons of packages to service members all over the world.  

I have a mother-in-law with that age-defying spirit.  

At the age of eighty-nine, she delivers meals to elderly people in her town. Along with Millie, she is from what is known as the “Greatest Generation,” those who grew up during the great depression and World War II.  A persevering generation 

During one of the most divisive election years in history and a pandemic that has transformed our lives, we can learn from this generation.  

They watched their world go through hard changes due to an economic collapse and a world war and learned to adapt.  

Their perseverance during difficult times defined them and helped them develop the character for which they were known.  

They inspired TV news anchor Tom Brokaw to write a book in their honor, The Greatest Generation

Research professor of sociology, Glen Holt Elder Jr, author of Children of the Great Depression, said of this generation: “Most of these ‘children of the Great Depression’ fared unusually well in their adult years.”  

He said they came out of the hardships of the Great Depression “with an ability to know how to survive and make do and solve problems.”  

Our one assurance 

We too can survive the hard times.

Will we be known for our perseverance and pass on to the next generation a legacy of values like our predecessors?   

The answer for me lies in Millie’s statement after she made her remarkable jump: “I was scared for one minute, it felt like I was tumbling and then I thought, somebody is holding me.”  

During these difficult days of uncertainty, I often feel like I am tumbling.  

I feel scared.  

But then I grab hold of the one assurance I have that makes me realize fear is unnecessary: Somebody is holding me. 

I claim this comforting assurance: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).  

And, “your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:10).  

The God who measures the universe in the palm of his hand is the One who holds onto me in the same way a shepherd holds a young lamb to protect it: 

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 

—Isaiah 40:11–12

There are no greater hands to have holding us during these difficult days.  

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