Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 12, 2014

90-year-old ex-president George Bush to make parachute jump

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush can no longer use his legs, but he isn't letting that stop him from keeping a vow he made five years ago: to jump from an aircraft on his 90th birthday, which is Thursday.

"It's a wonderful day in Maine — in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump," the nation's 41st president announced on Twitter.

Bush intends to make a tandem jump from a helicopter harnessed to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a retired member of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute team, near his summer home, spokesman Jim McGrath said. Elliott guided Bush to a gentle landing five years ago.

The announcement was kept secret until the last minute, partly to give Bush himself the option of bagging it. The forecast Thursday called for clouds and scattered showers across the southern Maine coast.

McGrath said Bush likes both a surprise and an adrenaline rush.

"It's vintage George Bush," he said. "It's that passion for life. It's wanting to set a goal, wanting to achieve it. I'm sure part of it is sending a message to others that even in your retirement years you can still find challenges."

The first time Bush jumped from an airplane was when his plane was shot down in World War II over the Pacific. Later, he decided to jump from a plane of his own accord and marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving.

He said on his 85th birthday that he'd like to do it again on his 90th. Thursday's jump would be his eighth.

Other birthday festivities included a private dinner with more than 200 relatives and friends, including some from his White House days: press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, McGrath said. His children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.

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