COLLEGE STATION, Texas – After floating down to Earth in a 13,000-foot skydive, former President George H.W. Bush (search) had a message for all those who, like him, have reached the age of 80.
"Get out and do something," Bush said. "Just don't watch TV."
Strapped to an Army parachuting expert to ensure his safety, Bush jumped out of an airplane over his presidential museum Sunday to culminate a weekend of birthday celebrations.
He made a tandem jump — harnessed to a member of an Army's Golden Knights (search) parachute team — after officials decided the wind conditions and low clouds made it too dangerous for Bush to jump alone, which he did when he turned 75.
With Staff Sgt. Bryan Schnell on his back and a black-and-gold parachute ballooning above them, the 41st president waved to some 4,000 spectators as he neared the drop zone — a painted logo of "41 at 80" on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University (search).
"Afraid," Gorbachev said through an interpreter, explaining why he didn't take up the former president's offer. "Maybe on his 90th birthday. ... For me, it would be a first. At my age, that may kill me."
Besides flowers, Gorbachev also gave Bush a bottle of vodka.
"It's great to have people that have energy and vitality like my dad and approach age with dignity," Jeb Bush said. "He's doing it because he wants to have fun."
The elder Bush made his first parachute jump as a 20-year-old Navy pilot shot down over the Pacific during World War II. In 1992, he bailed out over Yuma, Ariz., fulfilling a wartime promise he made to himself that someday he'd jump from a plane for fun. Five years ago, he made a similar jump over College Station, and earlier Sunday made a practice tandem jump before the main event.
The five jumps merited Bush a medal awarding him parachutist's wings. His wings, pinned on him at the conclusion of his jump, also include a small bronze star, indicating he'd made a combat jump in a hostile area.
The skydive capped two days of birthday festivities for Bush.
On Saturday, a baseball park full of about 5,200 people, including his eldest son, President Bush, former British Prime Minister John Major and celebrities and sports figures such as Dennis Miller and Pete Sampras, wished Bush a happy birthday.
The weekend events were designed to raise money for the George Bush Forty-One Endowment, which supports his library foundation, the Houston-based University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Bush's Points of Light Foundation. During a party Saturday night, it was announced that the endowment had raised more than $55 million in the last two years.