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These veterans in Congress will mark D-Day by jumping out of a plane

‘You hit pretty hard,’ says Rep. Mike Waltz

Rep. Michael Waltz, seated in center, and other military veterans in Congress attend an April training session with the Round Canopy Parachuting Team. Waltz will jump from a C-47 later this week to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.
Rep. Michael Waltz, seated in center, and other military veterans in Congress attend an April training session with the Round Canopy Parachuting Team. Waltz will jump from a C-47 later this week to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. (Courtesy Rep. Michael Waltz)

It’s a quick trip to the ground jumping out of a Douglas C-47 Skytrain with a vintage-style parachute.

Unlike commercial skydiving, it’s not a leisurely jaunt with scenic views and a soft landing. Total time to the earth from the military transport planes, which were commonly used by Allied forces in World War II, is just over a minute. And the landing often comes with a jolt to the back and knees, according to Florida Republican Rep. Michael Waltz.

“From a military standpoint, the longer you’re sitting up there floating under a parachute, the more vulnerable you are to get shot. So you want to be as low to the ground as possible so that you float to the ground as fast as possible,” said Waltz, a retired Green Beret who, along with several of his House colleagues, will jump from a plane over France on Friday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

“You don’t land softly, like when you see a skydiver just kind of tiptoe right onto the ground. You hit pretty hard,” Waltz said. 

In the days surrounding the June 6 anniversary, reenactors, veterans and active-duty military members will re-stage the historic aerial invasion of Normandy, which launched the offensive that would wrest back control from the Nazis and change the course of the war. 

Later this week, a large congressional delegation will fly to France for a multiday commemoration. They will visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where many of the roughly 2,500 Americans who died during the D-Day assault are buried. They will also pay tribute to the remaining living veterans who served in World War II.

“This is the 80th anniversary. That means the youngest World War II veteran that we know of that will be there is 96. The oldest is 107. Several have died just since they signed up with American Airlines to go. So it’s important to honor them to keep their legacy alive,” Waltz said. 

More than a dozen senators will travel to France, and Speaker Mike Johnson canceled House votes on Thursday to allow members of his chamber to make the trip across the Atlantic as well. But only a select few will make the leap over Mont Saint-Michel on Friday. According to Waltz’s office, the group includes Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, a retired Army Ranger, and Republican Reps. Mark Green, Dan Crenshaw, Rich McCormick, Derrick Van Orden, Keith Self, Darrell Issa, Ronny Jackson and Cory Mills.

Waltz is an experienced parachutist, with somewhere between 70 and 80 jumps under his belt. And Crow has made the jump over Normandy at least once before, in 2019, alongside Waltz for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. But others may be rustier.

“Everyone has experience — but for some people it’s been quite a long time since they retired and since they were in an active airborne unit,” Waltz said.

He led most of the group on a practice jump on April 5 in Palatka, Fla., where they went over some safety precautions for the trip. Landing correctly and controlling your body in the air, since members will be jumping about a second apart from each other, are key. And with the relatively low altitude, quickly activating the reserve parachute in the event of any midair mishaps can be a lifesaver. 

Given the Republicans’ slim majority in the House, the group will want to adhere closely to all safety procedures, but Waltz said he isn’t concerned.

“We joked with Speaker Johnson that the plane is 81 years old. It’s a vintage World War II plane,” Waltz said. “All of our uniforms will be vintage. We’re going over the same drop zone as our forefathers in World War II. But the parachutes are new. And we have a backup chute. So don’t worry, it’ll be just fine.”

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