Twenty five years ago, the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg suffered its most deaths in a single day since World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.
A jet fighter crashed into a fully fueled C-141 and both aircrafts exploded sending a debris-filled fireball into 500 Army paratroopers engaged in pre-jump activities.
The 82nd Abn. Div. hosted the Green Ramp Disaster Memorial Ceremony March 22, outside the Airborne Division War Memorial at Fort Bragg.
The memorial ceremony commemorated the 24 paratroopers who died and over 100 who were injured on that catastrophic day.
The Commanding General, 82nd Abn. Div. Maj. Gen. James J. Mingus opened the ceremony by recognizing the survivors and surviving Family members of the fallen paratroopers.
“Learn from Soldiers, they will do what they were train to do and we wonder why we do battle drills” said Mingus. “Soldiers had no regards for their personal safety but only for others.”
Afterward, Mingus recounted the events of the day as he remembered them. He described it as the perfect day for a jump before the Green Ramp disaster turned the 82nd Airborne Division’s world upside down.
Out of the disaster strong bonds grew and paratroopers supported each other.
“We were all in Capt. James J. Mingus company, he was our company commander,” said Kevin Wilson, a former 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment paratrooper. “Four of our NCOs were lost that day and several were wounded but we stayed connected, formed (a) bond and began doing fun events together.”
Retired Lt. Col. Jay Nelson, a Green Ramp Disaster survivor and the event guest speaker, wanted audience members to walk away with a greater sense of why the memorial was necessary.
“I hope this day to remember helps to heal some of the wounds that may not have healed in these past years, said Nelson. “It is not just important, it is crucial to the survival of organizations such as the 82nd to remember their dead.”
“Not just for the immediate Families of the fallen, but for the larger Family of Paratroopers that it is,” he added.
During Nelson’s speech he thanked the audience for joining him in honoring the memories of the fallen paratroopers.
“Then, as now, I only wish I had the words to comfort them” said Nelson. “But what I can do is honor the memories of the Paratroopers we lost here, by never forgetting their sacrifice and pausing to remember it every year at this time, thanks for helping me do that today.”