LONDON — In preparation of their invasion onto the beaches of France, American and British soldiers trained together on Everleigh Drop Zone to commemorate for what would become one of the most pivotal events of World War II known as D-Day.
“It’s not lost with me that 68 years ago to the day, American and British paratroopers were parachuting onto Salisbury Glen, rehearsing to what was to become D-Day. It’s nice to see 68 years later, to the day, that we are doing a similar thing,” said British army Lt. Col. John Boyd of the 4th Para. “I think that the relationship as well, has been strengthened over the last 10 years on the battle fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a true brotherhood.”
The airborne operation consisted of both American and British equipment and aircraft. American Soldiers were trained up on the British low-level parachutes, while British soldiers learned how to properly use the American T-10s. Prior to gearing up, each Soldier learned how the other country’s equipment was packed, how it operated, and how to use it safely.
“They have been very welcoming — they’re very positive people. Any questions I had, they were there to help me out. Not just me, but helpful to other Soldiers as well,” explained Spc. Louie Reyes, 416th Civil Affairs Battalion out of San Diego. “This is a good lifetime experience; it goes a long way. It makes you appreciate it that much more, to know what they’ve (D-Day paratroopers) been through.”
Each paratrooper also had the opportunity to earn the jump wings of their ally. The British and Americans exchanged their jump wings in a traditional ceremony on the drop zone.
Just as their forefathers did many years ago, the day’s event was an opportunity for the Soldiers to prepare for what many say will be an experience of a lifetime — jumping onto the drop zones of Normandy, France, and commemorating the 68th anniversary of D-Day.
“As a paratrooper, these are the roots. The events that happened on D-Day were the framework for what we do today as paratroopers,” said Sgt. Fred Romero, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Miami. “It’s going to be a humbling experience to just follow in those footstep and to be able to take part — to be here, to be on that beach — the same beach that they shed blood and tears on. It’s going to be very humbling.”
About 340 U.S. troops participated in many memorial ceremonies around the Normandy region to commemorate the 68th anniversary of D-Day, which began Sunday and will last through today.