67th SOS offloads SOF over historic Normandy drop zone

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators don their parachutes and other gear before loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators don their parachutes and other gear before loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators gather for a mission brief prior to donning their parachutes and loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators gather for a mission brief prior to donning their parachutes and loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators gather for a mission brief prior to donning their parachutes and loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators gather for a mission brief prior to donning their parachutes and loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators don their parachutes and other gear before loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators don their parachutes and other gear before loading an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators jump from an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, and perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators jump from an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, and perform military free fall to their objective, the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operator jumps off the ramp of an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operator jumps off the ramp of an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators jump off the ramp of an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

U.S. Special Operations Command -- Europe operators jump off the ramp of an MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, to perform military free fall to the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day. More than 60 SOCEUR operators performed the MFF jumps which were a small portion of the commemorative events which took place in strategic World War II sites throughout Normandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

NORMANDY, France -- In commemoration of the 71st anniversary of D-Day, two MC-130J Commando II aircraft from the 67th Special Operations Squadron transported more than 60 U.S. Special Operations Command – Europe operators to the historic La Fiere drop zone near Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, France, June 7, 2015.

“We’re here today to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the jumps that took place over Normandy on D-Day,” said U.S. Army Capt. Tyler Espinoza, Joint Special Operations Air Component – Europe special operations air planner. “We will be performing the military free fall portion of the jumps.”

The day began when SOCEUR operators arrived early to conduct mission planning and briefings.

“This is very similar to what took place 71 years ago – we meet, discuss the objective, brief the weather, terrain and then walk through the plan so we all are on the same page,” said a SOCEUR operator.
As the operators were preparing for the jump into Normandy, the aircrew and maintainers readied the aircraft.

“Although this is reminiscent of the original D-Day events, it in no way underscores the pressure, dread or uneasy feelings those men must have felt leading up to the launch,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert Livingston, 67th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II pilot.

The MC-130Js launched just before noon and performed two passes over La Fiere, dropping the SOCEUR operators overhead.

Just off the La Fiere drop zone were bleachers for attendees to watch the commemorative events. For one operator, his feet has barely touched the ground before he was greeted by a World War II veteran.

“I had just landed -- when I looked up there was a World War II vet extending his hand to me and thanking me,” said a 321st Special Tactics Squadron Air Commando. “He then told me I needed to hurry up and get my chute in – I think he was reliving it all.”

For the veterans who were able to attend the D-Day commemorative events, the moment meant something different. For one veteran in particular, revisiting Normandy gave him an opportunity to thank those who continued to serve.

“We were the ones who gave France their freedom. Seeing this – being honored and knowing that those who gave their lives have not been forgotten – that is what’s important,” said Charles Wilson, 4th Division, Battery C tank driver who was in the first wave of the D-Day landings on Utah Beach, Normandy, France. “Hopefully my being here, we’re creating patriotism and loyalty to our country and to those who are serving today. We cannot be allowed to forget.”

In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”