by Senior Airman Thomas Karol
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs June 10, 2022
Three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing participated in the 78th Annual D-Day commemoration in Normandy, France, June 6.
The 37th Airlift Squadron participated in multiple ceremonies and flyovers in remembrance of their predecessors who dropped paratroopers over Normandy during Operation Overlord 78 years ago.
“For me, it is incredibly important to be here,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Pedone, Detachment Commander for the 78th Commemoration of D-Day. “My great cousin was a C-47 Skytrain pilot and he dropped the first paratroopers over Northern France. To come out here and experience the heritage of my family is really special.”
D-Day ceremonies brought together those from nations who fought on both sides of World War II to remember the sacrifices made by all during the contest of Northern France.
“Many of our partners and allies are here with us to remember this historic event,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, 82nd Airborne Division commander. “I think it’s extremely important that our partners, and even our former enemies – now close allies, are here to remember the sacrifices made here in the name of freedom.”
According to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General A. Mark Milley, the ideology that threatened the lives of the people of Western Europe 78 years ago is eerily similar to what we see in the world today.
“It has been almost 80 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and fascist Italy,” said Milley. “But, we are again seeing death and destruction on the European continent. While Kyiv may be 2,000 kilometers away from where we are today, they too are experiencing the same horrors the French people experienced in World War II at the hands of the Nazi invaders. The world has come together in the support of the Defense of Ukraine against a determined invader. The fight for Ukraine is about honoring these veterans of World War II. It’s about the treaties that were established by the dead that are buried here at this cemetery.”
Those treaties were born out of service members who, through their own grit and perseverance, liberated a continent from evil and changed history forever.
“They gave us the world we live in today, which we still fight to keep free,” Pedone said. “We flew over Normandy American Cemetery and we were moved by the extreme sacrifice that was made here, and feel the weight of how many people we lost in the defense of freedom. It’s an honor to be here to commemorate the sacrifices that were made and the people who not only saved the country, but the world.”
The predecessor to today’s 37 AS dropped troops over Normandy before the landings began the liberation of the tyrannical rule of Europe.
“We are experiencing and learning about a piece of our history,” Pedone said. “It’s interesting to see where our operations began and how they have change throughout the years. It really brings into perspective why we are here and develops a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices made by those brave individuals 78 years ago.”