ELYSBURG — The sky over this Northumberland County community was filled with patriotism Sunday afternoon as members of the All Veteran Parachute Team (AVPT) displayed the American and Marine Corps flags in honor of disabled veteran David Noblit.
Cheers erupted from the crowd of residents, dignitaries and veterans as they watched AVPT founder and President Michael Elliott land on a grassy field at Ralpho Township Community Park. He was immediately followed by four members of the AVPT, including Luke Conner displaying the Marine Corps flag and Mario Rivera with a flag representing Yuengling Brewery, a major sponsor of the event.
As Elliott was descending he was thinking of Noblit, an Elysburg resident and graduate of Line Mountain High School who lost both his legs and suffered a severe injury to his left arm in an IED blast on Oct. 20, 2010, at Patrol Base Fulod, Afghanistan.
“I want to walk up to our brothers like Dave and salute him and tell him thanks. Because we, as veterans, understand each other,” said Elliott, who has tandem jumped thousands of times and with people such as former President George W. Bush Sr.
Noblit was unable to tandem jump, as previously announced, because the vest ordered wasn’t up to safety standards, but Elliott vowed to come back in 2021 and skydive with Noblit as a “much bigger and mask-free” crowd looks on.
“It’s hard to even find a word that would describe what this means to me. Our young American heroes, like Dave, sacrificed so much for our freedom,” Elliott said after presenting Noblit with an American flag. “I know the world is in a bad position, with the pandemic, but, you know, we are overcoming (and) we are pushing through.”
Elliott, who skydived at last year’s 100th All Home Days celebration, said he was impressed with how much patriotism and kindness the Elysburg community showed toward veterans. After being notified that this year’s All Home Days was canceled because of the pandemic, he felt the need to give back to local service members, veterans and first responders.
Noblit said he felt a sense of pride as he watched the AVPT display the American and Marine Corps flags over his community.
“We do live in the best nation in the world. The freedom that we have is second to none,” Noblit said while surrounded by fellow Marines. “With them doing this for me, it’s just amazing.”
Noblit, who was honored in 2016 by Homes for Our Troops with a new home along Heartland Boulevard in Elysburg, described the community as amazing. He said the patriotism and respect given to the AVPT last year caused the group to return.
“If you haven’t been in the boots, it’s just something you won’t understand it, it’s a brotherhood like no other,” Noblit said of next year’s jump with the fellow veteran. “I definitely miss it. I was blown up in 2010, so since then I’ve definitely been looking for that brotherhood again.”
Dignitaries in attendance included Ralpho Township Supervisors Blaine Madara Jr. and Dan Williams, U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser and Northumberland County Commissioner Joseph Klebon.
“In place of having All Home Days and the veterans’ event, this turnout here is fantastic, especially when people come out and get together a little bit and see something patriotic on Labor Day weekend,” said Klebon, whose father and uncles served in the armed forces. “During the current climate of our country, it’s great to do something patriotic, especially for our veterans who sacrifice so much out of their lives to serve our country.”
Later Sunday evening the AVPT conducted a second jump that featured a pyrotechnic display. Dozens of people applauded and cheered as sparklers appeared from the feet of the jumpers, who eventually landed at Glenn Herring Memorial Field.
Both events were sponsored by a private group, including Rep. Kurt Masser, R-107, and local veterans J.P. Marinari, Clint Herr and Dick Knoebel.