NORMANDY, France (CNN) — A 93-year-old veteran who parachuted into Normandy 70 years ago wanted to try to it one more time.
Paratroopers are known for their checklists, and at the top of former paratrooper Jim “Pee Wee” Martin’s list coming back to France for this D-Day anniversary was taking the opportunity to make one more parachute jump over Normandy.
And so, with young servicemen and women one-third his age, Martin suited up and prepared to board a C-47 not much different than the one he boarded in England almost exactly 70 years ago to the hour.
Like his old comrades from the 101st Airborne, Martin first parachuted into Normandy on a dark night — with enemy soldiers shooting at him.
“Everybody is scared all the time. Anybody tells you they isn’t is full of crap, but you just do what you have to do, regardless of it. That’s the difference,” said Martin.
And Pvt. Martin did what he had to do with the 101st, right up until the end of the war.
In an exhibit, Martin got to see one of his original jackets and even the helmet that belonged to his fallen comrade — who was right next to him when he got shot.
But if he wanted to come back one more time to the spot where he was part of history, it was not to see the relics of his past or wallow in glory.
“You know, people think you come back and you’re all emotional about it, and I am not that way about it … I enjoy the people, but I am kind of humbled and embarrassed at the adulation because I don’t feel that we did anything that we weren’t supposed to do or anything exceptional. We just did what we were trained to do, and I think people look at us as a little more than we really were,” said Martin.
No it wasn’t for the glory. If Martin was back in Normandy, it was because of that harrowing historical time that permanently bonded together all those who shared in it — a chance to honor those who will not be coming back and a chance for those still alive to savor the fact that they are.
It’s a moment all members of the 101st from back then would love to share. Because if Martin was going to be the last of his generation to parachute into Normandy, well this was one for the team.
“What made me do it today? A little bit of ego because I am 93 and I can still do it, and also, I just wanted to show all the people that you don’t have to sit and die just because you get old,” said Martin.