Seventy-five years ago more than 160,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France to fight Nazi Germany.
Members of the Frederick Airborne Demonstration team were in France to help commemorate this day.
The memorial took place a day early in France because no air traffic is permitted besides the military, but even though the reenactment did not take place on the actual anniversary, it was still an eye-opening event for those who participated.
For Brian Wiswell, history is part of the job being in the World War II airborne demonstration team, but on Wednesday he experienced something new, a reenactment of the D-Day invasion.
“It was somewhat a little mentally overwhelming, but not in a fearful or in a bad sense. Just in reverence. Who gets to do this kind of stuff? It was really fun,” Wiswell said.
Wiswell, along with the demonstration team’s public affairs officer Laura Goodwin, said the event seemed like a big celebration and that could be seen on the faces of the World War II veterans who were there.
“To see their faces—they were giddy,” Goodwin said. “Giddy, just excited, like they got to relive it again as far as the good times. The camaraderie. None of them talked about any of the bad things. It was all the good experiences they had. They were so excited.”
What happened in France 75 years ago has not been forgotten by those who live there.
“I started walking toward the crowd, toward our gathering point,” Wiswell said. “To do so, I had to pass by a line of French residents that were watching the show. As I approached them, trying to be polite and saying about all I knew in French which is ‘bonsoir.’ They all immediately laughed, probably because of the way I said it and they replied in almost perfect English how grateful they are for what we were doing.”
Being a part of such a special event and getting to share the stories of those who sacrificed means so much to Wiswell.
“It’s not just about what happened but who it happened to and who made it happen,” Wiswell said.
“And most importantly those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the liberation of Europe and really the entire world from Nazi tyranny.”
All of those jumpers are not done just yet; Friday they are going to another landing zone from the D-Day invasion to do a reenactment there as well, and they will do another one on June 9.