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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published September 25 2012

Lt. governor all smiles in parachute jump

ST. PAUL – Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon said her first parachute jump was peaceful.

At least it was after the initial fear of jumping out of an airplane at 12,800 feet.

“After the parachute deploys and we settle down, it is a peaceful ride,” Prettner Solon said Tuesday, her feet firmly planted on the ground. “It truly is.”

The peaceful ride came as she tried to draw attention to the need to support families of military personnel who are in combat.

The 66-year-old Duluth woman could be seen smiling as she descended toward a landing zone marked with a massive X, becoming the first state executive to parachute onto the Capitol mall. At one point, she waved to the couple hundred people awaiting her arrival.

Prettner Solon made her first skydive, in tandem with Amy Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Figel, to draw attention to the Community Covenant, a 5-year-old initiative to show support for military families. She said 2,000 Minnesotan military personnel are overseas, including 600 Minnesota National Guard members.

Gov. Mark Dayton, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and military representatives joined Prettner Solon in signing a commitment to support the covenant.

Dayton said family members left behind have a tough task dealing with life without those in uniform.

Military personnel, Prettner Solon said, “have earned the promise of full education and full employment,” pledging that the Dayton administration will fulfill that promise.

Figel said that Prettner Solon showed trust in him, a stranger, much like military personnel must do when working together.

Prettner Solon and Figel fell at 120 miles an hour shortly after jumping from the plane, Figel said. They experienced 45 seconds of free fall, followed by about four minutes under a bright yellow Army parachute.

In about 700 tandem jumps, in which someone is attached to Figel, he said that Prettner Solon is the first public official he has escorted on such a trip.

Just two have backed out after entering the airplane, he said. Prettner Solon said she made sure to keep her hands close to her chest so she could not grab onto anything as they left the plane.

“There is a rush the first time you go through the door,” she said.