SAINTE-MERE-EGLISE, France -- More than 500 U.S., French, Dutch, Romanian and German paratroopers jumped from nine U.S., French, Dutch and German C-130s and C-160s during a commemorative airborne operation near here June 3 to pay tribute to D-Day veterans who demonstrated the selfless service and sacrifice characteristic of the Greatest Generation.
Following the flight path of June 6, 1944, aircraft dropped 60 paratroopers per pass, with many of them landing on beds of green grass or in waist-deep creeks as they did 74 years ago.
This year marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 -- most commonly known as D-Day. An epic multinational amphibious and airborne operation, D-Day forged partnerships and reinforced transatlantic bonds that remain strong today. Overall, U.S. service members from 20 units in Europe and the U.S. will participate in events and ceremonies May 30-June 7, 2018, in almost 40 locations throughout the Normandy region of France as part of Joint Task Force Normandy 74.
Sgt. Emily Clymer, assigned to 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), dedicated her jump to her grandfather who served during WWII and her father who was an Airborne Soldier.
"I've tried for the past four years to be a part of this jump today," Clymer said. "So to be here today…I couldn't have asked for anything better. To help me celebrate this moment, my dad flew over here to watch my jump and we're dedicating this jump to his father -- my grandfather, a WWII veteran."
U.S. troops remain forever indebted to WWII veterans and were proud to participate.
According to Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Abernethy, the U.S. Army Europe senior enlisted leader, these multinational commemorative events are invaluable to strengthening the enduring relationships that remain strong even after 74 years.
"As I prepared for this jump, it brought me back to how complicated it must have been for our allied teams to do this jump 74 years ago," Abernethy said. "My mentor, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Kenneth "Rock" Merritt, fought with 82nd Airborne in Normandy and it's great to be out here today to honor him and all those who sacrificed their lives…strengthening the relationships we have today."
Following the re-enactment of the airborne operation, U.S. Soldiers, NATO allies, WWII veterans and local leaders gathered at the "Iron Mike" statue for a wreath-laying ceremony.
"Like the crack of a rifle, the single order -- "GO, GO,"…airborne Soldiers marched into history," Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said. "We are here to mark a battle that future generations will long remember as one of the defining moments for [paratroopers], our Army and for the great noble crusade to free Europe from oppression.
"Today, let us honor the valor and sacrifices of those who surrendered their lives with renewed resolve and let us continue the great noble undertaking of freedom."