Veterans’ Voices: Paratrooper recounts most harrowing moments

Veterans Voices

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A Lafayette man is recalling his time in the U.S. Army Airborne as a time in his life that shaped his future. 

Marcus “Mark” Melancon recalls his time in the U.S. Army Airborne where he met his wife and made many lifelong friends. It shaped his life into the man he is today. Now, he has a message for other veterans.

“I landed in the powerlines. We jumped at 2 o’clock in the morning and you couldn’t see nothing, but when you jump, we jump from 500 feet and you hear gunfire and all that going off and then you give your position away when you land in the power lines and the power lines are just caked together and they just start sparking and sparking. I figured I was being shocked…. picturing myself like a cartoon character just a skeleton in the dark but I wasn’t getting shocked. It ripped the helmet off my head and had me dangling upside down from the powerlines and then I was able to cut myself loose and get down and be totally lost… where am I?” said Mark Melancon, a U.S. Army Airborne Veteran.

Mark Melancon recalls his worst combat jump he ever experienced in 1989… A 30-day exhibition to capture Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega. He says when the planes started taking gunfire, they diverted and Melancon and his fellow paratroopers were forced to jump into the trees instead of landing in the airfield.

“Panama was a paratroop experience,” explained Melancon. “I wasn’t airborne till I got to Fort Bragg. Germany, I was just, we call them ‘legs.’ I was infantry, and then when I got to Fort Bragg, I went to jump school at Fort Benning for two and a half weeks and then went back to Fort Bragg for special forces, and when I left special forces, I went to the 82nd and that’s when I got out.” 

Melancon started in the National Guard in 1983 in the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He served over a year, and then decided to go active duty. He was sent to Fort Polk for a year, then Germany for the next two years.

“Germany was a great place,” Melancon added. “The comradery, the cohesion of the fellow troops… It was unbelievable. These guys because they have no place to go. There’s no family anywhere around there so you became a close-knit family, and I got to travel everywhere I could in Europe. When I left Germany, I went to Fort Bragg and I went through special forces at Fort Bragg.” 

Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is where Melancon says he met his wife on a weekend getaway. They’ve now been married for 30 years.

“I was up for re-enlistment. We were just dating. She said you can’t continue so I didn’t re-enlist. I got out. We got married and have four great kids with her and all my kids are here in town,” said Melancon.

Now, Melancon is helping other veterans share their experiences with the help of the local Special Forces Association and the Acadiana Chapter 82nd Airborne Division Association.

“I feel for all these guys in Afghanistan, Iraq and all that stuff that’s been going on for years,” said Melancon. “PTSD is real, but you can get over it. You just talk it out. There’s always someone that’s willing to talk. Once you let it out, it becomes easier.” 

If you are a veteran or know of a veteran who may be interested in joining the Special Forces Association, visit https://www.specialforcesassociation.org/contact/. For information on the Acadiana Chapter 82nd Airborne Division Assocation, visit their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Nonprofit-Organization/Acadiana-Chapter-82nd-Airborne-Division-Association-174739489213482/.

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