Jon Ring

Jon Ring

During the planning phase for this trip, the cadets came to realize that we would really want to spend some time in Paris while in France. It would be a shame if we traveled that far and didn’t see the “must-see” places and things in the City of Lights.  

My final full day in Normandy for this trip. I'll begin the trip back to North Carolina in the morning and will quickly shift gears to head down to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, next week for JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge. We will bring about 20 of our Raider cadets for a week of awesome training and team building — getting to do all the fun things that you would get to do in a year in the Army all in a week. At the end of the following week, I will return to Normandy with a small group of cadets and take them around to learn and reinforce what I have just experienced. I hope they are ready for it!

Another early call this morning for a jump into the tiny village of Angoville au Plain. I mentioned the town the other day when I conducted a recon of the drop zone and visited the church. The 101st Airborne Division was dropped into this place on D-Day in 1944. There were many casualties from both sides in the area and two medics from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment established a field aid station in the church to treat all casualties. 

If there is a bigger day than the 6th of June during this series of events, for paratroopers, it would be the day of the "big" jump. The day that every American paratrooper should experience at least once in their life. The day when Allied militaries, exhibition teams, and others who are able to fit onto the schedule and into the plan conduct a large combined, joint airborne operation onto the historic drop zone of the 82nd Airborne Division 75 years ago. It is the holy grail of jumps ... and I have been honored to participate in a few. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the original Operation Neptune jumps, the planners ensured that the jump would be on the weekend — which means that it is the 9th rather than the 6th. 

The extremely high winds and scattered rains continued today. The jump planned at Graignes was scratched. I welcome the cancellation since I was going to miss the memorial ceremony at Hemevez. Now, I'm able to go.

Spring had more than sprung in Richmond County when I departed less than a week ago. Winter gear could safely be put away until about November. Here in the north of France, the calendar may indicate spring, but it is shockingly different than the Carolinas — like 40 degrees cooler with fog and wind. It all blew in last evening. It sounded like a hurricane all night as the wind and rain beat against the house. Also beating against the front of the house and the black-out storm shutters was the old parachute that was decorating the place. 

I woke to a quiet Normandy coast — very different than the morning of the 6th of June, 1944. The German defenders were expecting quiet in the area — they had been convinced that when the Allies finally committed to attacking, the attack would likely be elsewhere. The German commander, Erwin Rommel or the Desert Fox, was so comfortable and confident that he was out of the area — on a personal shopping trip to buy a birthday gift for his wife in Paris. BIG mistake. 

It is late in Normandy, but if I don't send this report now, it will be overcome by the big day's events. The fifth of June would have been D-Day, but the weather did not cooperate. Truth be told, the allies were well into the deployment when they had to shift 24 hours. The weather here in the region changes even more than it does in Richmond County. Not only that, but a few miles away from wherever you are, the weather is 180 degrees different. So it went today.

Woke up this morning as it got light(er) than it was during the night. Adjusting to the time here — it was 1 a.m. in Richmond County, but 7 a.m. in France. I got my PT shoes on and headed out for a run (not as fast as I once was, but I still call it running) up Utah Beach. It was surreal.