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1. What attracted you to the sport of skydiving?
JD: To be entirely honest I don’t know what attracted me to the sport. I didn’t really even know I wanted to skydive until I booked my first tandem. After I did my first tandem I fell absolutely and completely in love with skydiving. The freedom of free fall and the peaceful quiet under canopy. There’s nothing like it. So I booked my second tandem. I was already hooked after the first jump and after the second I knew this was something I needed in my life all the time. It’s crazy to think how that one-minute free fall changed my entire life. I have always been the adventurer in my family, the risk-taker. And I guess skydiving is the fruition of that.
2. What influenced you to actually make the phone call to make your first skydive?
JD: Ha! Its funny actually, I lived in Fort Atkinson at the time and I drove past the skydiving center several times a week. And one year a few years ago I was trying to decide what to do for my birthday. I always try to do something extraordinary for my birthday (the previous year i ran a half marathon with my brother). And I was driving by the dropzone and I made a snap decision. I didn’t consult anyone or do any research or anything, I just called Alex and I booked my tandem.
3. What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever been on?
JD: I am still fairly new to the sport and I don’t have a ton of jumps like some of these other folks, but my most memorable… well there are a few. I remember the first time I really got to fly and work and see what I could do. We were attempting a 3-way, I was last out of the plane and the two guys sank so fast that I swooped to meet them and braked too late and flew past them. I missed linking up and I worked my butt off flying around the 2 guys who were linked. I don’t think I ever made it in, but I had the best time flying in the air. The other memorable ones, The first time I did a high pull and got to play in the clouds and the the first time the boys taught me how to “flip the cat.”
4. Who / What inspires you?
JD: I can’t think of one person in particular but people in general. I look with great humility and am awed by people who don’t let anything stop them. People who are relentless in their passion. It doesn’t matter what that passion is, be it skydiving, or art, or music or math. I have seen people who meet an obstacle and give up and go home. And I have seen people meet an obstacle head on and fight tooth and nail to beat it. Medically, emotionally, physically. People who never quit. Those are the people who inspire me to be a better me. And inspire me, no matter how bleak things may look, to never, ever quit.
5. Of the places you have visited – what is your favorite place and why?
JD: I have been very blessed to be very well traveled for a young person. I have been to a dozen countries and probably 35 states. While each place has its own unique charm and appeal, my favorite place would be France. I have been to Paris twice. And it is the most breathtaking city. The culture is so beautiful. The city is incredible. The museums… walking throughout the Louvre, I cried. Being in a place with such a rich history is a very overwhelming feeling. But there is so much more to France than Paris. The second time I went to France I hopped a train north and went to Normandy. I AM AN ABSOLUTE NERD for World War II history. I actually have a bachelors degree in World War II history. It was my favorite subject as a kid and it has never gone away. I did a D-day tour and went to, among other places, all the beaches. I collected a bit of sand and I still have it in a little glass bottle. Went to the the American cemetery Colleville-sur-mer. It was a trip-defining experience. The marble cross headstones are so orderly and pristine. The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach, and you can just stand there in the garden, overlooking the headstones out into the great blue Atlantic Ocean. I have never felt so small in my life. Standing there, among so many heroes, I was rendered speechless. It was one of the most, if not THE most beautiful experience I had in Europe.
6. What other interests do you have outside of skydiving?
JD: I am an avid hiker and camper. I LOVE riding my bike, swimming, kayaking, I am hoping to try paddle boarding very soon, I also like snowboarding (very poorly) in the winter. I absolutely love to cook and bake tasty treats. That is actually how I got my nickname. When I was going through AFF, I would bring in a baked good every single day. One day, another skydiver called me “Cookie” and the name just stuck. And I LOVE it! Let’s see, I also love hanging out with my nieces and nephew. I have 6 of them and they are the coolest kids I know. I am also a professionally trained singer and actress. There are few things that make me happier in life than belting a song and hitting that perfect note. There is no feeling in the world like it.
7. What is something about you that few people know about?
JD: I kind of mentioned it already, but I am an absolute nut for World War II history. I started really researching the subject in high school and I decided I wanted to be a WWII historian. I was dead-set on that as a career path. But life happens and things change and I followed a different path, and that is ok. But I was a complete nerd in school. Seriously, in college, though I was an athlete (where are my ruggers at?) and could party with the best of them, my favorite thing about school was all the research papers I got to write. I can’t think of anything that made me happier than sitting on the floor with my laptop, surrounded by books and notes and annotations in margins. Just thinking about it now I am nostalgic for those times. I have SO MANY books on WWII it might be a little bit ridiculous. My home library is almost entire history books. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. My grandfather served in the Pacific Theater of Operations and he died when I was 6. I barely knew him at all. And I think that by researching the war and reading about… everything, its like I’m getting to know the grandfather I never knew. Like it brings us closer together.
8. If you could meet anyone in the world for a coffee and a chat (alive or deceased) who would you wish to meet with?
JD: Two people, and at this point it should be no surprise, *HUGE NERD ALERT* I would choose FDR and Winston Churchill. I would pick their brains endlessly about military strategy. And begged them to tell me everything that went on at every closed door meeting during the war.
9. What do you do for work? If you could do anything as an occupation – what would it be?
JD: I do everything for work, until recently I worked on the backstage crew and in the costume shop at a professional theater. And since leaving I am primarily a substitute teacher, I occasional work retail and I work at Wisconsin Skydiving Center. If I could do anything as an occupation, I would be an actress. And a skydiver. Actually, a marriage of the two professions would suit me just fine.
10. What are your future goals?
JD: For the immediate future, I am making plans to move to California. I want to be a working actor, and the midwest market is just too small. So, LA is the plan. I want to learn to surf, be able to skydive year round, dust off my SCUBA license, take acting classes and just give it a go. I have dreamt of moving to Los Angeles since I was young and only wanted to act. And I just know I would regret it my whole life if I never try.
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