Grand Rapids graduates participate in paratrooper demonstration for anniversary of D-Day
In order to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, a group of seven military Veterans decided to form a team to participate in a parachute jump marking the anniversary.
About 40 vintage C47 Dakota aircraft, the largest gathering of wartime paratrooper planes since 1945, were assembled to drop hundreds of jumpers on Wednesday, June 5, wearing historic uniforms representative of the period. Calling themselves the Heritage Jump Team, they began the required planning and training last October - making two jumps from the same type of vintage plane in April in Oklahoma, explained Grand Rapids native Jim Mickle, who participated in the event earlier this week.
The teams were all experienced paratroopers in the military, with collectively hundreds of jumps while serving in both the Army and Marine Corps, Mickle explained. Two Grand Rapids High School graduates participated as members - Mickle, class of 1988, and Bill Linn, class of 1989.
Some World War II D-Day Veterans were on hand on Wednesday to see the group off from their departure airfield, flying in formation over the English Channel and across the Norman countryside at drop altitude of 1,500 feet into a drop zone used by the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion 75 years ago.
Linn carried with him a photo of Grand Rapids deceased Veteran Gordy Johnson, a mentor of his who was wounded as a paratrooper in the fighting shortly after landing by parachute on D-Day in Carentan, the very town in which the Heritage Jump Team made their landings.
“For American paratroopers, Normandy is sacred ground,” explained Linn. “To participate in honoring the memory of those heroes who gave everything to liberate France and preserve freedom [was an honor.]”