Hoda Kotb is not only Jenna Bush Hager’s TODAY co-host and good friend, she is also now a code word.
On TODAY with Hoda & Jenna on Thursday, Jenna shared why she was shouting “Hoooooddddddaaaaaaa!!!!” as she plummeted to the earth during her 10,000-foot skydive a few hours earlier.
She admittedly was cussing up a storm off camera out of anxiety ahead of the jump, so her instructors had given her a plan to avoid cursing a blue streak on live television.
“I had a code word,” Jenna said. “I had a code secret word in my head that I practiced saying, and actually the guys were hilarious. The code word was ‘Hoda.’ And the guys were like, ‘Remember, emphasis on the ‘da,’ emphasis on the ‘da.’ Don’t just go down yelling ‘Ho.'”
Jenna also had previous experience using code words on live television when falling from great heights. She shouted out “Mommy!” live on TODAY in 2014 while plunging 200 feet into a canyon on the “Terror-dactyl” ride at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park in Colorado.
On Thursday, Jenna let loose with Hoda’s name at full volume as she hurtled 120 mph toward the ground at the beginning of the tandem jump with Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Abeln of the U.S. Army’s famed parachute team, the Golden Knights.
“There were some cuss words, but it wasn’t when the camera was rolling,” Jenna said.
“I didn’t hear any,” Abeln said on TODAY with a grin.
Jenna’s heart-pounding moment in the skies was a tribute to her late grandfather, former president George H.W. Bush, a skydiving enthusiast who marked multiple milestone birthdays, including his 90th, by jumping out of an airplane.
She also paid homage to Bush’s military history and honored the U.S. Army, which celebrated its 246th birthday on Monday. She landed on the grounds of the National Museum of the United States Army after taking off at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
“I think I said ‘Why did I say yes to this?’ one million times this morning, but at that moment I felt closer to my Gamps who I love so much, and I felt, ‘I’m brave,'” Jenna said. “I felt courageous, and I just went for it.”
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliot watched Jenna from the ground with the perspective of having tandem-jumped with her grandfather multiple times as a member of the Golden Knights, including Bush’s 90th birthday.
“I don’t recall him screaming quite as much on his way down,” Elliot joked on TODAY. “A little quieter than Jenna, but I’m sure Gampy was very proud of watching you fall today. Absolutely amazing.”
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