Charles Plumb grew up on a farm outside a small town in Kansas. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a pilot. His dream became a reality in the United States Navy. Charles graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in 1964. In November 1965, Plumb earned his Navy Wings, becoming a Naval Aviator. In a move that would make Tom Cruise jealous, Plumb then reported to Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, where he made his mark helping to develop the Navy Fighter Weapons School, more commonly referred to as “TOP GUN.”
Captain Charles Plumb was then sent to serve in Vietnam on the Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk. He had completed 74 successful combat missions and was shot down on mission #75. Charles ejected from his plane and parachuted into enemy hands, where he was captured and tortured before spending six years in a Vietnamese prison.
Years later, while dining with his wife in a Kansas City restaurant, a man approached his table and said, “You’re Captain Plumb!”
“Yes, Sir,” Charles replied.
The man energetically continued. “You flew 74 successful missions over Vietnam from the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier.”
“That’s correct. I did.”
“You were shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a Prisoner of War.
Charles Plumb scratched his head and asked, “How in the world did you know all of that?”
The man looked smiled and said, “Because I packed your parachute.”
Captain Plumb, then a professional speaker, found himself speechless.
His parachute packer reached out, grabbed his hand, and shook it vigorously before saying, “I guess it worked!”
Plumb laughed and replied, “Indeed it did, my friend, and I’ve given thanks in my prayers a million times for your nimble fingers. If the chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Captain Plumb looked at this man who had served him so well and wondered how many times he might have seen and completely ignored him because he was a fighter pilot and the stranger was just a sailor. He smiled at his parachute packer and asked, “What about you? Do you keep track of all of the parachutes you’ve packed? Do you know how many lives you’ve saved because of the excellence of your work?”
The man smiled and replied, “No, I don’t keep track. It’s enough for me to know that I’ve served.”
Now, several years later, Captain Plumb inspires thousands of military and non-military personnel alike by asking one simple question: Who’s packing your parachute?
In our lives, be it personal or work related, we must realize that we are not alone in our endeavors. Others are always there, and have always been there, working faithfully to ensure our success.
It’s time we give them the thanks and the credit they deserve.
To hear Captain Plumb’s story in his own words, click here.