Tom Rice is the 97 year old veteran who recently parachuted onto the beaches of Normandy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, Rice jumped out of a plane over the coast of Normandy as part of the US invasion of Europe. The 97 year old re-enacted his jump on June 6, 2019. This time, he was waving an American flag and taking part in a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day, which was a turning point in the war for the US and its allies.
“It went perfect, perfect jump,” Rice said afterward, according to the Associated Press. “I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Made a Safe Landing, Flashed a Victory Sign, & Said He Was Ready to ‘Go Back & Do It Again’
Tom Rice says that his parachute drop on D-Day was one of the worst jumps he ever made. Not only were there German soldiers shooting at him but, he says, he had some mechanical problems. “I got my left armpit caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door so I swung out, came back and hit the side of the aircraft, swung out again and came back, and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free,” he said this year, remembering the long-ago jump.
This time around, Rice said, he made a perfect jump. The 97 year old jumped in tandem this time, landing with only a slight stumble. On his feet in Normandy, he flashed a V for victory sign with his hand and smiled broadly. He said that he was ready to get back in the plane and “do it again.”
2. Rice Is a Retired Schoolteacher & Has Written Books About His WWII Experience
When World War Two ended, Rice returned home to Coronado, California. He went back to school and studied to become a teacher himself. He also wrote about his experience during the war, eventually publishing a book, in 2004, titled “Trial by Combat: A Paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division Remembers the 1944 Battle of Normandy.”
3. Rice Has Recreated the Parachute Jump Before & Says It’s Important for Young People to Cultivate Courage
In 2018, Rice also jumped out of an airplane over the coast of Normandy; he did the same thing 25 years ago in celebration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Rice says he jumps because he wants to honor the memory of this fellow-soldiers who didn’t survive World War Two. “I came home and they didn’t,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to forget them.”
Rice says that young people should talk to veterans and learn from them about the value of courage.
“Talk to these people who have been there, who’ve experienced this, who have logged behind in their deep, convoluted sections of their mind, their experiences and get them to talk about it. Courage is very important and when you act on courage then you are developing your character,” Rice told CNN.
4. Rice & His Wife Have 5 Children
When World War Two ended, Rice returned home to Coronado, California. He got married and settled down. He and his wife raised five children. He says that for years, he didn’t talk much about the war, out of a sense of humility and modesty. Rice went back to school and found work as a high school history teacher. But even when he was teaching his classes about World War Two, he didn’t mention that he was right there in the thick of the fighting.
5. Rice Says He Spent 6 Months Training to Be Ready for the Jump
The 97 year old veteran and former paratrooper said he felt great after jumping out of a plane and onto the coast of Normandy on June 6. Rice grinned, flashed the victory sign with both hands, and said he’d love to do it again. He spent months working with a physical trainer to ensure that he’d be able to make the jump without injuring himself. Rice said that this successful jump was a far cry from his jump on D-Day himself. That one, he says, was probably the worst of his life.
“I got my left armpit caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door so I swung out, came back and hit the side of the aircraft, swung out again and came back, and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free,” he said this year, remembering the long-ago jump.
This time, he said, he didn’t have any glitches. “It was a perfect, perfect jump” the veteran said.