By “Doc” Brent Murray
Atlanta Phoenix Tactical
The world is surely a darker place. This week, paintball loss a player who was an ambassador to the sport. This man did not play for the Russian Legion, he was not a factory sponsored player, nor do you really know him. However, if you ever played with him, he probably accepted you as a friend immediately. Skip Gossman, aka Wraith, passed away this week as a result of injuries suffered in an auto accident. Skip was a passionate man who fell in love with the challenge and camaraderie of paintball.
Skip had only been playing paintball for a few years. He was a product of a local field, Carnage Paintball. Skip began playing paintball when most people are looking to slowdown in life. He was easy to spot since he was often the eldest player on the field. And if a player thought his age was a weakness in his game, he quickly taught them a lesson in life, make no assumptions. Wraith started a website to document his growth, www.299fps.com. He proudly posted pictures from his paintball outings. More importantly you started to learn how much sportsmanship this man had. His code was higher than every other player on the field.
From the beginning of the Atlanta Phoenix Tactical Scenario paintball team, Skip was a leader. Skip led with his awesome work ethic and his strong code. Many of his teammates found themselves troubled to live up to Skip’s standards. Skip honored players who would get a shot on him. He cared not if the paintball actually broke and would leave the field after calling himself out. It was not uncommon for Skip to walk up to a player and congratulate him or her on the kill. His website spelled out his code. Skip stated that “if I get hit – you feel it (yes, they do “sting” a little) – I call MYSELF OUT.” As a teammate, this sometimes frustrated me. While playing in Market Gardens in Dalton, GA, which was a 24hourgames scenario and my first scenario, I found myself partnered with Skip on a mission. We soon found ourselves in a 2 on who knows how many firefight and Skip takes a bouncer. While reaching for a pod, I see him pull out his barrel sock and call himself out. There was not a bit of paint on that man!
Later on, I came limping back to our respawn area and there was Skip waiting on me with a smile that I could see through his mask. I resembled an Easter egg wearing a shirt of many colors! Skip lived up to his code. Skip honored the play of his aggressor, but honored himself and his team. Skip occasionally found himself being questioned by those whom he played against. When squaring off against teams we knew, they would call out to Skip inquiring whether their paint broke on him. Then, they would yell at him to get back in the bunker!
Skip was that player who always had something nice to say. He played a unique game of paintball. He was known for his Tippmann A-5 and his moveable bunker he nicknamed “the mech.” Skip sought out challenges to conquer. On many occasions that challenge was helping young players seeking their path in paintball play. I witnessed Skip buying extra paint to hand out to kids so that they could play another game. He would take a very young player with him down the tape and work up bunker by bunker. He would bring paintball grenades and smoke grenades to the field which would thrill the paintballers there that day. Paintballing with Skip was always a special day.
The last time I played paintball against Skip, it was such a day. The usual cast of characters had gathered at Carnage, but we were there to fulfill a long awaited goal. Skip shared a goal of mine. Tommie, another APT player rolled in and the event started. It was SNOWING! Off to the field we go for a 3 on 3 snowball fight of epic paintball proportions! We played until our markers all froze up! Undoubtly, the most memorable paintball outing of my life!
As you have seen, Skip was a very special person. Many great things can, will, and have been said about Skip Gossman. The most honorable thing I can say about Skip was he was my friend. He was a friend of every APT teammember. He was a friend of many other teams. As I sit here writing this I can still see Skip pulling off his JT mask and there is his smile. That smile made the world a brighter place for his teammates, his family, and his wife Joanne. But that smile has been taken from us. Skip conquered every challenge he set his mind to. His friends are left with the biggest challenge of all. We will never get to hear his voice, see his smile, or watch him chrono his marker again. But we have many memories of our friend and his smile is just one memory away. The sun will come back up and brighten our lives again. But, for now, the world is surely a darker place.