A local organization that promotes fellowship among veterans will once again offer veterans the chance to jump out of an airplane.

Heroes on the River will host the annual event from July 22-24 at the New Market Airport, with skydiving expertise provided by Skydive Shenandoah.

The event is free for combat veterans, active-duty military members and their families. Skydive Shenandoah provides instructions and orientation to participants.

What started out as a two-day event has expanded to three days with the goal of having 150 people jump out of a plane while strapped to a trained skydiver, Heroes on the River founder Adam Packham said.

Last year, about 60 participants jumped out of a small Cessna plane, but this year the organization hopes to use two larger planes to carry more people.

The extra day will also allow for more time to camp at the airport during the evenings, an aspect of the event that brought veterans closer together last year. Participants need to bring their own camping gear.

The event will feature catered food from Gordo Gringo empanadas, Six Star Catering and Mission BBQ. There will also be live music.

“It’s really coming together,” Packham said of his group’s efforts to let veterans know they are not alone.

Packham, an Army veteran who served from 1999-2002, started the nonprofit group about five years ago with his wife as a way for veterans to find camaraderie.

About 11% to 20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. They are joined by 12% of Gulf War veterans who have PTSD and about 30% of Vietnam veterans who have had PTSD in their lifetimes.

Heroes on the River will also host its second bass fishing tournament on the Shenandoah River in Front Royal in October and a 5K race in Stephens City in September. An all-inclusive fishing trip for veterans in Florida is in the works.

To sign up for skydiving, email heroesontheriverva@gmail.com. For more information on the organization, visit facebook.com/HeroesOnTheRiver.

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