CARENTAN, France - Tom Rice, a 97-year-old veteran, jumped with hundreds of other parachutists over Normandy on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
The San Diego resident fell from the sky with the others and landed in a wildflower field in Carentan, France, to honor the airborne soldiers who jumped into gunfire and death ahead of the June 6, 1944 invasion on the beaches.
“It went perfect, perfect jump,” he said. “I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.”
C-47 transport planes dropped Rice and a couple hundred others over the field. Rice believed he’d landed roughly in the same area he had 75 years ago.
In 1944, he’d jumped with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He’d landed safely, but a bullet hit his parachute. He said it was the “worst jump” he’d ever had.
But his jump on Wednesday was different – he came down in tandem with another parachutist after preparing for it for six months. He also had an American flag waving behind him.
Other parachutists who jumped carried World War II souvenirs, some of which their grandfathers had taken into battle.
Rice said coming back to the spot where he’d landed decades ago was a form of closure that he and other veterans needed.
“All the GIs suffer from the same blame and shame,” he said. “It bothers us all the time for what we did. We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the Germans out, and coming back here is a matter of closure. You can close the issue now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.