World War II veteran Al “Abby” Ramirez celebrated his 89th birthday from 13,000 feet on Monday in a jump he dedicated to a late sky diving instructor and the four Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting.
“It was a good jump,” Ramirez said. “I got a little rain up there before we hit the ground, but it was nice. I’m glad I made it.”
The jump was No. 104 for Ramirez, who is one of the last living World War II veterans in the area, having served on a U.S. Navy ship in 1944 as a 17-year-old machine gunner. He eventually left the Navy and after a break in service, re-enlisted in the U.S. Army when the Korean War started.
He finished his career in the Army and retired an airborne school instructor at Fort Campbell.
“Military jumps are rough,” Ramirez said. “This is good. You get to enjoy it and come down so easy.”
David Hughes, owner of Sky Dive Santa Barbara, said it was very significant that Ramirez chose to come out and jump Monday.
“Obviously, there was lots of sky diving during World War II, so it’s kind of significant that he used his sky dive to jump out and dedicate it to Robin (Ballachey) and the four Marines that died in Tennessee, especially with him being 89,” Hughes said. “It’s kind of cool what he did.”
Ballachey was a former sky diving instructor employed by Hughes, who recently died during a sky diving accident in Mexico, he said.
“She was a tall, elegant, really good looking girl and everyone really liked her,” Hughes said. “She could hang out with the girls and she could hang out with the guys. She was kind of cool that way, and she had a great personality.”
Ramirez said she was also very close to him. On Monday, Ramirez wore a patch in memory of her.
The 89-year-old veteran also became distraught when he heard that four Marines had died after a gunman fired upon a recruiting center, along with another site in Chattanooga, in July.
“It was a terrible shame that happened,” he said.
Fellow veteran Harley Santos, who accompanied Ramirez to the sky diving facility but declined to join him on his jump, said Ramirez is still very dedicated to issues relating to veterans.
“He’s always out looking for other veterans and helping,” he said.
Ramirez performed a similar jump two years ago, jumping with his son, on his 87th birthday. Ramirez vowed then that jump No. 103 would be his last. Clearly, it was not.
“He says that he’s going to retire after this one,” Santos said. “But knowing Abby, he might change his mind.”