KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday by making a tandem parachute jump near his summer home, fulfilling a goal he made five years ago after a similar jump even though he can no longer use his legs.
The nation's 41st president jumped from a helicopter at about 6,000 feet while harnessed to retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a former member of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team, who guided Bush to a safe landing on his 85th birthday.
"That's what he wanted for his 90th birthday and that's what he got," Elliott said. "It's a very good feeling to be involved and be able to turn back time."
The helicopter picked up Bush outside his home in Kennebunkport, in coastal Maine. His family sang "Happy Birthday" to him as he was transported him from his wheelchair to the chopper.
Bush floated to the ground under a red, white and blue parachute and landed on the lawn of St. Ann's Episcopal Church, where several hundred friends and relatives had gathered. Elliott said Bush's foot got tangled up underneath him during the landing, causing him to tumble forward onto the ground. A spokesman later said the former president was feeling "fine."
"He had a big smile for the crowd. You could tell he was exhilarated," said Diana Untermeyer, a family friend from Houston. "He's an amazing man. This is just another sign of that. I think that like most of America, our family loves him to pieces. It was just a real thrill to do this again."
Bush was greeted with a kiss from his wife, Barbara Bush, and a hug from his son former President George W. Bush. The family left without talking to reporters.
Outside the grounds, scores of people gathered on the rocky shore to get a glimpse of the jump.
"He has a lot of courage. We need more like him," said David Morris, 79, of Melrose, Massachusetts.
Said Carol Schierl, 75, of Green Bay, Wisconsin: "I think it's wonderful. I hope I can jump out of a plane at 90."
The jump was kept secret until Thursday morning partly to give Bush the option of bagging it because of less-than-ideal weather.
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