Kentucky Special Forces Soldiers honor D-Day paratroopers

Story by Sgt. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Soldiers with the Kentucky National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group jump from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter over Camp Atterbury, Indiana June 6, 2014. The Soldiers were taking part in a D-Day commemorative jump to pay tribute to the more than 2,000 paratroopers who lost their lives during the D-Day invasion in WWII. (Photo by Sgt. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard)

CAMP ATTERBURY, In. — In an isolated field in the middle of Indiana, a group of Kentucky National Guard paratroopers gathered to pay homage to their brothers-in-arms who paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. Soldiers from Kentucky’s 20th Special Forces Group met at Camp Atterbury June 6, to take part in parachute jumps from UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

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Soldiers with the Kentucky National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group parachute from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter over Camp Atterbury, Indiana June 6, 2014. The Soldiers were taking part in a D-Day commemorative jump to pay tribute to the paratroopers who lost their lives during the D-Day invasion in WWII. (Photo by Sgt. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard)

“We’re doing this in remembrance of that day,” said Maj. Derek Hart, commander for the detachment. “It’s our connection to the past. The more we look at our history, the more we learn.”

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This connection was echoed by several of the paratroopers present at the jump site who said the historical aspect was just as important.

“This is to remember our tradition, the Airborne tradition,” said Staff Sergeant Andrew Beard, a Special Forces cryptologic linguist. “It’s a day I don’t want to forget and don’t want others to forget.”

“That day, on June 6, a lot of paratroopers lost their lives,” said Spc. Terry Kirk, another cryptologic linguist with detachment. “ We’re doing this in their honor.”

20thSFG promotion

Eric Slater, a cryptologic linguist with the Kentucky National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group, gets promoted to the rank of sergeant during a D-Day memorial jump at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, June 6, 2014. (Kentucky National Guard photograph by Sgt. Will Bolton, 133 Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

More than 2,500 paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Division died during D-Day invasion; more than all the beach landings combined. Words can hardly begin to tell the true depth of what it means to be part of such a prestigious fraternity.

“It’s hard to describe what is means to be part of that brotherhood, but it feels good inside,” said Kirk.

The Special Forces troops maintained a “D-Day” mindset throughout their preparations for the jump. At 2000 hrs on June 5 they held a formation, coinciding with the local time (0100hrs) seventy years ago when the 101st and 82nd crossed over the French coastal line. During the evening formation a brief history of the airborne operation was read, along with the letter from General Eisenhower that was read to the paratroopers prior to boarding their aircraft. A set of wings was then presented to their youngest Special Forces paratrooper per tradition. The formation concluded with a moment of silence, the playing of taps and a salute in honor of the fallen.

Afterward the members of the 20th watched a special episode of “Band of Brothers.”  The evening provided a chance for remembrance and reflection of the past and for the paratroopers to focus on the significance of their military lineage.

“Those guys back in World War II are the standard because they worked harder and achieved more,” said Hart. “Our Soldiers today follow that tradition.  It’s an honor and it’s humbling to work with them.”

 

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