News: Toy Drop becomes a family affair
Story by Staff Sgt. JaJuan Broadnax
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – For a father and his son, Operation Toy Drop had more meaning than receiving foreign jump wings and giving back to the local communities.
During the 14th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop Dec. 10, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Vallade and his son, Army Sgt. Joseph Vallade, both Fort Bragg paratroopers, jumped from an aircraft together for the first time and earned Thai army jump wings.
The junior Vallade arrived to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team nearly three years ago. He’s a military policeman in the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion. His father took over responsibilities as the command sergeant major for the 82nd Sustainment Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion earlier this year. They’ve been trying to coordinate a jump together ever since, they said.
“The odds of us jumping together are not the best in the world, so today was a very special day for us”, said Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade. “It will probably be the only jump that I will have with this young sergeant before he gets promoted again or I retire.”
“I was thinking that I would never get a chance to jump with him, but thank the Lord,” he added. The senior Vallade is in his 28th year of service, but his son has the edge on airborne operations, he said with pride, praising Sgt. Vallade for getting his 12th jump that day. Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade has seven.
“That’s why he got to go in front of me today,” said the senior Vallade. “That doesn’t happen often.”
“The good thing about jumping side-by-side is that he was teasing me most of the day,” he said of his son. “He gave me six cherry pies to put into my pocket. Needless to say, I did not jump with the cherry pies in my pocket.”
“Now I’m just waiting to [inspect his parachute],” said Sgt. Vallade, referring to his ambition to become a jumpmaster.
Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade said that along with having his battalion commander enlist his son into the military and being able to drop him for his first pushup, the chance to jump with him will be something that he will remember for the rest of his career.
“It’s awesome to have someone to look up to”, said Sgt. Vallade. “I’ve always wanted to be in the Army. It’s awesome to finally be here and be able to look directly up at my dad in uniform and out of uniform.”
“He’s most definitely my role model”, he said as he looked at the command sergeant major.
Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade is equally proud, as his son has developed a reputation of taking care of his soldiers.
“I love you boy”, he said as he patted him on the shoulder.
The jump may be the Vallades’ last opportunity as the junior is about to embark on his second Afghanistan deployment. Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade is approaching retirement soon.
Both are feeling the anxiety about the junior Vallade’s upcoming mission, they said. Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade explained that although he has five combat deployments under his belt, nothing can prepare a father to send his son off to war.
“When you’re the deployer, you don’t think about it”, said the command sergeant major. “You train and you prepare, but when your son or your family member is gone downrange, you don’t get a break. You’ve been there, done that. You know what could happen.”
“But, I know that he is trained for it”, he added.
The only thing that could top the pride Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade felt jumping with his son and watching him turn into the combat-proven soldier he’s become is to jump with both of his sons. The third Vallade is an Army lieutenant.
“If I could get that to happen before I retire, I wouldn’t need a retirement gift,” he said. “That would be my gift.”