Three World War II veterans in their nineties, who saw the horrors D-Day first-hand in 1944, parachuted over the beaches of Normandy Wednesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the landings.
Tom Rice, a 97-year-old U.S. 101st Airborne paratrooper veteran, participated in the honorary jump with 200 other parachuters. “I feel great, I’d go up and do it all again,” he said after jumping out of a C-47 transport plane.
The veteran landed in a field outside of Carentan, around where he landed 75 years ago.
Rice told The Associated Press that “the worst jump” he ever had was the 1944 jump during D-Day. “I got my left armpit caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door, so I swung out, came back and hit the side of the aircraft, swung out again and came back, and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free.”
Rice worked with a physical trainer for six months to prepare for his jump on Wednesday. Instead of being met with bullets, he jumped into clear skies while holding an American flag and being applauded by thousands of people.
Another 95-year-old D-Day veteran, Harry Read, said in an interview with the Press Association before his jump, “I will enjoy the jump. But also, in my heart, I will be thinking of my mates.” He was only 20 years old when he parachuted onto the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago with the Royal Signals.
Read recognized that a jump for someone his age could be dangerous: “I said my prayers about it and to my great my great surprise it seemed as though God was saying to me, ‘Go for it’.”
A third veteran, John Hutton, was only 19 years old when he served in the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion on D-Day. Now 94, he will be jumping alongside Read to honor the men they lost on that day.
— Press Association (@PA) June 3, 2019
Many others who jumped carried with them family heirlooms and souvenirs from the war.
“I feel like I got to jump with my grandpa,” Robert Schaefer, an Afghanistan veteran told The Associated Press. Schaefer jumped with whiskey, cigars, and his grandfather’s dog tag and wallet that he carried when he fought in France.
Those who watched this event wore uniforms from World War II with music from the time playing over the speakers.
Events are happening all around the world to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day where thousands of soldiers lost their lives.
President Trump is finishing his visit to the U.K. by attending a D-Day commemoration ceremony in Portsmouth, England, with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles.