Who Packed Your Parachute?

Remember your leaders who spoke God’s Word to you. 

Hebrews 13:7          


Captain Charlie Plumb piloted an F-4 Phantom jet during the Vietnam War. On May 19, 1967, he was flying a mission near Hanoi when his jet was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy territory. 

Years later, Plumb and his wife were eating in a restaurant in Kansas City. A man a couple tables away kept staring at him. Later, the man got up from his table, walked over up to Charlie and said, “You’re Captain Plumb.”  

“Yes, sir, I’m Captain Plumb.”  

“You flew jet fighters in Vietnam,“ he said. “You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.” The man continued to recite Plumb’s history in Vietnam: being shot down, parachuting into enemy hands, and spending six years as a POW.”  

“How in the world,” Charlie asked, “did you know all that?”  

“Because,” the man replied, “I packed your parachute, adding, “I guess it worked.”   


Charlie Plumb has shared his meeting with this sailor with thousands of audiences. When he finishes his story, he asks: “Who packed your parachute?”  

We focus on those who achieve great things as if their accomplishments were done on their own. Yet, Charlie Plumb’s encounter with a sailor from the Kitty Hawk led him to realize that his success is due to the help and sacrifices of so many others.  


After World War I, a returning vet rented an apartment in Chicago in order to live next to one of his favorite authors, Sherwood Anderson.  

For two years, the two met nearly every day. When the young veteran, hoping to become a writer, brought samples of his work to Anderson, he could count on receiving brutally honest critiques. After each critique, the young man would return to his typewriter and seek to improve his writing.  

Seven years later, the young man, Ernest Hemingway, published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. “I didn’t know how to write,” Hemingway admits, “until I met Sherwood Anderson.”  

After Hemingway’s success, Anderson moved to New Orleans. He began mentoring another young writer. Three years later, this new student, William Faulkner, published the American classic, The Sound and the Fury. 

Anderson was a fine writer, but is better remembered for those he helped. Three of Anderson’s students won the Nobel Prize for literature and four won the coveted Pulitzer Prize.  


Who mentored you? Who guided and instructed you to become the person you are?  

Whatever we achieve in life, it’s important to remember two important people: those who guided us with their wisdom, and those who packed our parachute. 

(text copyright 2011 by Marty Kaarre)