COLUMBIA — Golden fire marked the path of nine U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuters as they descended Saturday upon Faurot Field.
Members of the crowd were on their feet, cheering enthusiastically as the parachuters made "tip-toe" landings onto the field. The upright stance of onlooker Sgt. 1st Class Howard Sanborn, however, also provided cause for excitement.
On Sept. 9, Sanborn, who is a member of the Golden Knights, was on a morning bike ride — part of his training for his 15th triathlon race — when he was hit by a car. His spinal cord was severed, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
The Golden Knights performed during halftime of the Missouri versus Syracuse game Saturday to thank Chris Nelson, the trauma surgeon who treated Sanborn, and the physicians and staff of University Hospital's Frank L. Mitchell Jr., M.D., Trauma Center for saving the life of their fellow teammate.
"Seeing the Golden Knights fly was great," Nelson said. "But seeing him stand out there was, by far, the best thing."
The doctor-patient relationship grew fast between Nelson and Sanborn, because both had served as Army Rangers.
"There was an instant connection," Nelson said. "I knew I could talk to him in a way I couldn't talk to others. It made caring for him that much easier."
Sanborn said he is fortunate he was in such good shape when he was injured because it has helped him in his rehabilitation. On Saturday following the Golden Knights' landing, he noted his upper-body strength is better than it has ever been and said there is a chance that he could one day walk again.
He is in rehabilitation therapy in Chicago, but after that he has some big plans — talks of competing in the 2016 paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"There's a reason I made it to the Golden Knights — because I reached for the stars," Sanborn said. And now he has new stars in sight. "Watch for me in Rio."
Supervising editor is Alison Matas.