On June 6, spectators saw a sky studded with fearless jumpers parachuting down to recreate a moment from the past that will never be forgotten.
It may have happened decades ago, all the way back in 1944, when he was just 22 years old. But for Tom Rice, those memories are still fresh in his mind, where he stood on the edge of an aircraft, waiting to jump into enemy territory with a mission on his mind and 'America' in his heart.
After all these years, the one thing that never changed after all these years was how fearless the war veteran is, as he parachuted down with the flag of stars and stripes following him. At the age of 97, he decided to relive the moment where he was first in line to jump from the aircraft as a member of the US Army's 101st Airborne Division's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
He still remembers the determination he had at the time. "I was thinking, 'let's get the hell out of here,' because we were under fire," he told CNN. "All the thoughts about what we're going to do, how we're going to do it just passed through my mind so quickly and I was so focused on getting out of that aircraft."
He wasn't just doing it for himself, but also for the many people who jumped on the soils of Normandy with him but could not return home with him. There were friends and comrades who lost their lives on the same day of the jump and in the months that followed. Tom Rice, who also jumped last year, will never be able to forget the sacrifices made and the jump was also in honor of those lost lives, too. "I came home and they didn't," he said about his jump last year, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. "I don’t want anybody to forget them."
Among the many veterans who recreated the jump, there were others in their nineties who remembered the hardships they went through in the name of war. 75 years after the first landing, spectators in Normandy saw a bright sky studded with dozens of brave paratroopers parachuting down on June 6, 2019. Onlookers stood and watched in awe while many wore WWII era uniforms and played music from the time, as reported by The Sun.
Harry Read, who was also pushed out of his plane in 1944, also took the jump at the age of 95. "I thought the jump was brilliant. The jump was wonderful in every way. I feel good. My health is good and my mind is still ticking away," he said, according to The Guardian.
It was the very same soil that once filled them with fear of what is yet to come. And now, landing on the very same soil without the darkness of war would've been quite the feeling. 94-year-old John “Jock” Hutton said, "It's great to be back on French soil." He also joked about the jump leaving him with a sore behind because he landed "on a bunch of boulders".
Tom Rice recalled his days of rolling with hand grenades and having to dig up a grave for a German soldier. But more importantly, he reminded people of how those images get logged into the minds and they stay there for a long, long time.
"Talk to these people who have been there, who've experienced this, who have logged behind in their deep, convoluted sections of their mind, their experiences and get them to talk about it," he said. "Courage is very important and when you act on courage then you are developing your character."