This Veterans Day, long-serving Greenville physician and 90-year old Korean War veteran Dr. James Nicholson plans to skydive in Kansas City with 19 fellow veterans, ranging in age from 28 to 92, who served in conflicts ranging from World War II to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This will be my first and only time skydiving … and no, I’m not going to press my luck by taking a practice jump,” Nicholson said cheerfully. “This is just something that fell on me but being invited to do this is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received.”
The “Legacy Jump,” as it’s called, was organized by former Navy SEAL Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, who is the founder of Sons of the Flag (a nonprofit organization that raises funds for burn treatment research) and the Bird’s Eye View Project (a group that produces videos that share veterans’ personal stories).
In the Korean War, Nicholson served in the G Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, where the men in his unit soon gave him the nickname, Nick the BAR Man, because his weapon of choice was the powerful Browning Automatic Rifle.
“The BAR is a killing machine, but it’s a big gun so it draws a lot of enemy fire, so it’s pretty rare for someone to carry a BAR through five campaigns and live to tell about it … which I guess says something about my mental state,” Nicholson said with a snicker.
For his valor in the war, he received a Purple Heart after being severely wounded to the point of needing to undergo an emergency operation in the middle of a rice paddy. Also, as it would eventually turn out, the determination, initiative and dedication to duty that Nicholson exhibited in Korea would earn him a Silver Star 60 years later.
After leaving the U.S. Marine Corps, Nicholson studied medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, then moved to Rockwall and has had a family practice in Greenville for the past 62 years.
“I had the dream since I was a kid, to be like an old-time country doctor who went to patients’ homes with a black bag,” Nicholson said, remembering one such doctor who treated him for malaria as a child.
In 1967, Nicholson was one of four founders of the Greenville Hospital Authority, which opened Citizen’s General Hospital (now Hunt Regional Medical Center) in 1971.
“I’m a supervising physician now, but I’m also still seeing patients,” Nicholson said. “Over the years, I’ve probably helped deliver over 2,000 babies.”
In addition to being a long-trusted doctor in Greenville, Nicholson has also been involved in the community in several other capacities – which include being a founder of the local YMCA and Colonial Lodge assisted living facility, and serving on the Greenville ISD School Board.
Through the years, Nicholson has also been involved in several area veterans’ organizations and has been the keynote speaker at events including the Greenville ISD Veterans Day assembly and Rockwall’s Band of Brothers.
In 2013, Nicholson finished writing a book about his experiences in the Korean War, titled “George-3-7th Marines: A Brief Glimpse through Time of a Group of Young Marines.”
It was through his book that Nicholson met well-known Vietnam veteran and author Allen Clark, who in turn referred him to Parrott, the organizer of the annual Veterans Day skydiving event.
The jump will take place at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11, over the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, and landing in the museum’s north lawn.
For the Legacy Jump, Parrott and veteran friends of his will tandem skydive with 20 veterans, including servicemen and women who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.