Occasionally, I listen to country music as I have previously posted. Well this morning I was in a mood to hear some music, but nothing too upbeat and nothing depressing. I chose to listen to Trace Adkins ‘Til The Last Shots Fired. Well after listening to it, it brought back a memory that I WILL never forget in my life. This is an event that Paratroopers would voluntarily give up a limb for. I had the privilege to jump in Normandy Drop Zone in France as our Airborne Brethren did on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
To say that it was a privilege is an understatement. There were paratroopers from all over the Army. 82nd Airborne, 173rd Airborne, French, Italian, German Paratroopers etc. The jump was scheduled to happen on June 6, 2009, the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. When I was chosen by my 1SG, I really didn’t think it was a big deal, because it was a chance for me to jump with some foreign paratroopers and finally get my foreign jump wings. I told my wife about it and she told her Father. He said that jumping in France was an honor and I shouldn’t take it lightly. Of course being Airborne, you know about the Jumps that happened on D-Day, but it hadn’t hit me yet.
If I remember correctly we left on or about June 3, 2009, in route to France. Once we arrived we loaded up on buses and went to our temporary housing, a big ass circus tent full of cots. We received a brief from the Commanding Officer of the camp and gave us our next hard time. He then said that we could walk down to the town square and visit with the locals. It was amazing, because the French recognized the maroon berets. They also had role players driving the jeeps from that era, individuals dressed up as medics, infantrymen and cavalrymen. We were also told that we could drink, but not to get plastered because we had to conduct parades and prejump.
I think the group I was with stood in 3 different ceremonies. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get a chance to stand in the formation that was actually on the beach of Normandy. We did meet this awesome french family that sponsored us. Basically they took you on tours, if you requested and they fed us. I feel bad that I can’t remember this family’s name, but they showed us everything there was to see. The Father and Mother of the family owned a replica 5-ton truck from that era and gave us an awesome tour. After the tour he took us back to his house, introduced us to his mother and gave us a feast that was better than any restaurant that I had ever been to.
After all this we returned back to our camp, but we didn’t have a curfew, but they wanted everybody to be sober and ready to conduct Prejump the following day. Myself and Q went down and actually met some paratroopers that jumped on this day. To listen to him actually tell us his stories from that day was amazing. You are hearing it straight from the horses mouth. He bought us beer, we bought him beer, but I had to tap out early, because I didn’t want to be hung over the next morning.
It’s now June 5, 2009, about 10:00 in the morning, and it was time to conduct Prejump (Prejump is the process of getting everybody in chalk order, where you are going to be placed on the aircraft, what type of aircraft, time of the jump, the number of passes would be made and should be done no later than 24 hours before the scheduled Airborne Operation.) Everybody was hung over, but we did successfully get through it. After prejump, there was a no drinking order, because the Airborne Commander didn’t want anyone to be took drunk or hungover on the flight. We were allowed to go back to the town square, but this time we had a curfew and they had soldiers at the gate smelling for alcohol. They were only privates, so what could they really do?
The day has come, June 7, 2009, and we are loading up on buses for the ride to the airfield we would be departing from. The Forecast for the day was supposed to be partly cloudy, but they were worried about the winds. After everyone was issued their parachute we had to wait because we were early and they didn’t want everyone sitting in a parachute harness for hours. Once we got the okay to don our parachutes, we did. Jumpmasters everywhere conducting JMPI’s. I was scheduled to jump from a German version of the United States Military C-130. I was the number 6 jumper on the left door.
After being loaded on the plane, out of no where comes this rain storm. I mean it’s coming down. Everybody is worried that we wouldn’t get the chance to jump. It did clear up and we took off. The German Jumpmasters gave us our commands, we were all hooked up, but couldn’t exit, because the winds on the dropzone were too high. Each racetrack we conducted was 20 minutes. We did three racetracks, if you add it up, that’s 60 minutes of standing waiting to exit. After the 3rd racetrack they told us that the jump was scratched so we unhooked and sat down. Then all of a sudden they are yelling for us to hook up. Next thing you know, we get the green light. I exit the aircraft and was amazed, but I had to keep my wits about me because the winds were high and there was a river running in the middle of the dropzone and I can’t swim. They did issue everyone life preservers. I did all I could not to go towards that river. Just as I thought I was going to take a dip, the wind direction changed and I was going in the opposite direction. When I hit the ground my PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) was feet, ass and head. (It’s supposed to be balls of your feet, calf, buttocks and pull-up muscle.)
I hit the ground and my parachute filled with air, now I am being dragged, but I quickly activated my canopy release assembly. Packed up my chute and went to the turn-in point. The pass I was on, was the second to last pass. So a lot of jumpers didn’t get to experience jumping onto the dropzone. Once everybody that did jump, we formed up and marched up to the Iron Mike Statue and conducted an Airborne Wing swap. I gave a German Soldier some American Jump Wings and he gave me a pair of German Jump wings. Awesome Experience!
I know this post is quite lengthy, but not many Paratroopers can say that they actually had a chance to do what the Paratroopers before us did. June 6, 1944, there was also a lot lives lost and we did have a moment of silence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. A humbling experience. Also, having a chance to walk on the beach that was stormed by the United States Military was also humbling. I walked to the waters edge, just enough to where the water touched my boots and said a prayer for all those that were lost on that day.