FRANCE (Army) - A group of Fort Polk soldiers in 1st Battalion 509th Airborne Infantry Regiment are on the trip of a lifetime in France learning about their military heritage for the 74th Anniversary of D-Day.
Soldiers in 1/509th at Pointe du Hoc during a trip to France commemorating D-Day 74. (Courtesy: Cpt. Justin Hicks)
Various events were held commemorating the allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War Two.
In an email, Captain Justin Hicks, commander of Able Company told KALB he initiated the event starting last July.
"Upon arrival to the 1/509th, I sent an inquiry to the U.S. Army Europe Command and pitched our unit's participation. Although 509th PIR did not participate in Operation Overlord, our unit conducted the most combat jumps in WW2, relieved pressure on the northern front against the Normandy invasion by jumping in Le Muy, France in the south, and contributed to the victory in Europe. With approximately 500 parachutists participating in the airborne operation, there were far more events on the ground."
Since the group arrived in France at the end of May, they have participated in various memorial events. On May 29th, paratroopers were invited to dinner by families in Saint-Mere-Eglise. The next day the group traveled to Omaha Beach, Point Du Hoc, and the Omaha Beach American Cemetery.
On the 1st and 2nd of June, soldiers conducted ceremony support in celebrating the liberation of the town of Carentan. "In Carentan, 509th took photos of the son of Major Dick Winters, the Commander of the famed Easy Company in the Band of Brothers mini-series. We also heard a speech from General Eisenhower's granddaughter during a dinner of honor for Paratroopers," said Cpt. Hicks.
They also visited Utah beach where Cpt. Hicks said, "four Paratroopers went into the water and fully submerged themselves to experience to chilling temperatures of what our ancestors suffered while exiting their landing craft to charge the beach."
June 3rd was undoubtedly the highlight of their trip when paratroopers made the memorial D-Day jump. Cpt. Hicks described the operation: "(There was) 8 fixed wing aircraft, multi-national representation, where Paratroopers earned foreign wings of allied nations upon using that nation's parachute equipment and successfully landing on Iron Mike II Drop Zone at La Fiere, France."
"The aircraft flew the same flight path as those 74 years ago, and we Paratroopers had the honor of landing," said Cpt. Hicks. Staff Sergeant Ervan Myumyun even reenlisted on the drop zone.
Cpt. Hicks added that to his knowledge, the 1/509th team had never participated in the commemoration of airborne operations at D-Day in Normandy.
KALB will follow up with the group when they return to hear more about the trip.