We used to have this little wall behind our house, when I was growing up. It was about 3 feet tall and made out of cement block. A lot of houses on the street had them. The reason, was because the street to our south had a higher elevation. So when the “backs” of the yards met, between Bruce Avenue, and Knecht Drive, we were three feet lower. Hence the wall.
Anyway, it was a great thing to play on. You can build amazing adventures with a wall like that, running the length of the street, in various capacities. Sometimes, I would jump off the wall and yell, “Geronimo!” Of course, I wasn’t alone in that famous “cry” as one jumps from something.
Yesterday, I caught a little bit of an old Humphrey Bogart movie. He was a paratrooper, and that was their vocal cue, as they jumped from the plane. “Geronimo.”
The tradition for this started just prior to WWII. In 1940, to be exact. The Army was still figuring out a strategy for dropping troops out of planes. It seems simple enough to me, but I guess they needed a playbook.
So. The night before the first test jump, a bunch of the soldiers started drinking and letting loose. They even got to see a movie before the bar party. It was the 1939 film “Geronimo” (which starred Andy Devine and Chief Thundercloud.)
There they were drinking and cavorting after the movie. And one of the guys, a Private named Aubrey Eberhardt, started boasting that he wasn’t afraid of the jump. He commented on this because he was the tallest man in their unit. The jib-jabbing started about his bragging. The other guys said he would be so scared that he’d forget his name at the door. That was the deal. The troops were supposed to shout their name when they jumped. That was protocol.
So the next day, they were up in the plane. Everyone was doing great. Calling out their names and jumping. Then it was Eberhardt’s turn. When he got to the door, he decided to do them all one better. He shouted “Geronimo!” as he went out. And a new military tradition was born.
Back then, the Indians were still getting a bad rap. As such, some of the top military brass didn’t care for this new tradition. But some of the other higher-ups thought it demonstrated the bravery of the Apache chief.
I could write a whole book on Geronimo, the amazing leader and medicine man from the Bedonkohe band of the Apache tribe. He fought hard to keep the freedoms, the rights, and the lands of the Indians. He was the last holdout against American expansion to the West. Sadly.
And back to the jumping.
The military brass let the paratroopers keep the tradition.
From there, it kind of spread, like certain phrases do.
All the way to an eight-year-old girl, in the early 60’s, jumping off concrete walls, in Ohio.
And today. Maybe it is the spirit of Geronimo that reminds me why it is so important to stand up for our freedoms, and our human rights. Even when our very own government is threatening those rights.
“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”
― Elie Wiesel
“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
― John F. Kennedy
“Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”
― Franklin Delano Roosevelt