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Sky diving team falls for Colonial Cup races

Posted: November 14, 2010 1:42 p.m.
Updated: November 15, 2010 5:00 a.m.
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Mari Kate Bertok, 5, of Lexington, decorates a star on the coloring wall mural at the Colonial Cup. The mural will be sent to the Kershaw County based National Guard unit stationed in the Middle East.

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Spectators at the 41st Annual Marion DuPont 2010 Colonial Cup had their eyes to the sky Saturday just before the races began.

As part of the “Salute the Military” event, the Carolina Sky Diving team parachuted from above to land right in front of the grand stands. Three of the divers glided in with American flags billowing in the wind behind them.

Co-captain Ron Ally, a Vietnam combat veteran, said it was an honor to bring the American Flag into the Colonial Cup.
“We had the best seat in the house for a few minutes,” he said.

The team is composed of all South Carolina parachute jumpers, half of whom are combat veterans.

“Salute the Military” was designed to allow men and women in the United States armed forces to get free and reduced tickets to the Colonial Cup.

“We joined the Colonial Cup at 120 MPH, and then opened our parachutes,” said Robert Scott, a retired Air Force master sergeant from Sumter. “Hey, kids, don’t try this at home with mom’s bed sheets!”

Scott, or “Scotty” as the team members call him, received the Bronze Star for his service in Grenada after parachuting in to liberate the country. He is now part of the Carolina Sky Diving team.

The team has been jumping together for 25 years and has performed at football games at the University of South Carolina, Clemson, Wofford, Furman and The Citadel among many other venues.

Team captain Burke Fitzpatrick made his first jump in 1978 a few miles from the Cup on a landing strip in Lugoff.  Burke now has more than 5,100 jumps and is a deputy director with the S.C. Department of Public Safety.

“It was a privilege to participate in the Colonial Cup and honor our servicemen and women.  I know that the performance was especially meaningful to the veterans on our team. I think that our freefall performance, flag displays and accuracy landings got the races off to a great start,” he said. “Plus, we got into this great event without a ticket!”

In addition to the Carolina Sky Diving team, guests were entertained with a special performance by Technical Sgt. Steve David singing the National Anthem. David is a recruiter in the South Carolina Air National Guard and served in the Air Force on active duty from 1997 to 2002. He is a veteran of Operations Northern Watch and Iraqi Freedom. His 15 minutes of fame came when he was selected as a top 40 finalist during Season Five of “American Idol.”

Other special activities planned around the “Salute the Military” event included a coloring wall mural and a Renaissance Vocal Group performing a medley of patriotic songs.

The mural was sponsored by the Ronald McDonald House and offered a place for children and adults to write messages to troops serving overseas. After the race, the mural is being sent to the Kershaw County based National Guard unit stationed in the Middle East.

“It’s just another way for us to say ‘thanks’ to the troops and their families for all they do to protect and support our country, our state, and our community,” said Terri Teed, assistant director of the Carolina Cup Racing Association.

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