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NEWS | June 26, 2024

A Trip to Normandy: BAMC physician participates in historic D-Day 80th anniversary parachute jump

By Lori Newman Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

A prior trip to Normandy France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day inspired a Brooke Army Medical Center interventional radiologist to fulfill a longtime goal of jumping again.

“Our family went to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of historic D-Day Invasion where we witnessed numerous commemorative Airborne operations and we wondered who those paratroopers were,” said Dr. Steven Wagers. “I initially thought they were active duty Soldiers, but quickly learned that most of them were from private commemorative organizations.”

Curiosity piqued and recalling his early days of training as an Army paratrooper, Wagers searched online and discovered the website for the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team. A non-profit organization whose charter is to remember, honor and serve those military members who came before; to preserve their memories and honor their legacy.

“Passion for Veterans is their stock-in-trade and authenticity in performance of WWII parachuting is their forte,” the Army veteran said.

Wagers joined the WWII ADT in 2021 and became a full-fledged team member, participating in twice yearly jump schools in addition to other training and demonstration events.

When plans for WWII ADT participation in the 80th Normandy Invasion anniversary, he immediately signed up for the trip. Following a year of planning and preparation Wagers again gathered his family and friends to make the historic trip back to Normandy, this time as a commemorative WWII paratrooper.

“We had close to 50 WWII ADT team members who traveled to Normandy,” he said. “Nearly all made one or more parachute jumps on the historic drop zones named St. Marie du Mont and Graignes. Both sites were battle fields 80 years ago where so many ultimate sacrifices were made, and the history of the world was changed for the good.”

“The commemorative portion of the events were more impactful than I anticipated,” Wagers said. “Just walking on these drop zones was awe inspiring, considering what occurred during the invasion. On our initial team jump we each carried a picture with a brief biography of a Normandy Soldier who was killed during the invasion.”

After their final jump at the Graignes drop zone, they made a solemn march to the nearby Graignes memorial, where they each read aloud a name of an American Soldier from the monument who gave their life in defense of that village community.

“Both events served as small but impactful tokens of recognition of the sacrifices they made,” he said.

Wagers said the whole experience “really struck home” for him.

“It was a wonderful trip in many ways -- interacting with WWII veterans, jumping from vintage, battle scarred warbirds in Normandy on the D-Day anniversary with family and friends in attendance; it’s hard to express how profound that is,” he said emotionally. “Our jumps were in many ways just like any other jump operation we would perform, but on Norman soil, with the local populace present, it was simply incredible. Nearly overwhelming at times. It was very special.”

He is already making plans to return to Normandy for the 85th anniversary.