Parkersburg Green Beret parachutes into Normandy
PARKERSBURG — Green Beret Aaron Read of Parkersburg landed softly at Normandy, France, on June 5.
But the occasion made a big impression on Read as he joined members of his Special Forces unit and other parachutists who jumped from aircraft to commemorate the Allies’ airborne invasion on June 6, 1944, in support of the D-Day beach landings.
“It was an amazing and unforgettable experience” to be jumping from a World War II-era C-47 Dakota aircraft on to a Drop Zone at Normandy where U.S. paratroopers landed during D-Day in June 1944, Read, 41, said.
Read’s jump from 1,250 feet took place at dusk and he landed in a cow pasture. “As soft as butter,” he said of the Drop Zone landing. The English Channel and the Normandy beaches where the Allied troops landed were nearby.
The airplane Read flew in and jumped from was part of the D-Day invasion in France. The bullet holes are still visible on the inside of the C-47, Read said.
Many of the jumpers at the 75th anniversary commemoration dressed in World War II uniforms and equipment from the elite 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions but used modern parachutes for safety, Read said.
The Normandy area, in Northern France, was a scene out of the 1940s during the commemoration in early June, Read said. World War II jeeps, women and children in 1940s garb and men in military uniforms representing the United States, France and Great Britain joined in the tribute to the Allied forces who helped to liberate France from the Axis powers.
Read said he met a handful of Normandy veterans during the 75th anniversary event. It was amazing, humbling and awesome to meet these heroes, he said.
The D-Day commemoration was an exciting, memorable time, said Read, a Special Forces Operation sergeant with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where more than 9,380 Americans from the D-Day landings and future operations are buried, is humbling, Read said. He appreciates the sacrifices these U.S. military members made during World War II.
The area around the American cemetery is pristine and not overbuilt, Read said. Many of the churches, hedgerows and fences in the region remain today.
“The Normandy region reveres the United States,” Read said. The flags of the United States and France fly together in the area.
Two years ago, Read and his wife, Carrie, attended the D-Day commemoration at Normandy. This year the Reads brought their four children, Mackenzie, 18, Luke, 16, Abby, 11, and Jack, 9, with them to Normandy.
During his 22 years in the military, Read has trained and deployed in many countries, including parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. While deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, he planned and led the establishment of a combat outpost that successfully defended against 10 attacks, resulting in Read receiving the Bronze Star.
Paul LaPann can be reached at email@example.com