National Airborne Day honors past, present paratroopers

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http://sinepari.soc.mil/News/2008/August/SP-080813-02.html

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Sine Pari, Aug. 13, 2008) - As the crowd waits in anticipation, a helicopter circles overhead. Suddenly, streams of colored smoke flash against the sky and four men fall toward earth, slowed only by their parachutes catching the wind. Wild applause breaks out as the paratroopers land on a small patch of grass in the middle of the crowd.

These paratroopers are members of Fort Bragg’s three parachute demonstration teams, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Black Daggers, and the 82nd Airborne Division All-American Freefall Team and they have just kicked off the opening ceremony at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in honor of National Airborne Day, August 9.

This year National Airborne Day recognized 68 years of service and accomplishments of military airborne units as well as the individuals who have served and continue to serve in them.

On August 16, 1940, the Parachute Test Platoon performed the first official U.S. Army parachute jump and in 1942 the 82nd Infantry Division was the first airborne division designated and was renamed the 82nd Airborne Division.

Since then Airborne troops have played a vital role in World War II, Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm, Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans, and the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This year’s ceremony at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville honored the nation’s first paratroopers and their lasting legacy.

Lt. Gen. Robert W. Wagner, commander, USASOC, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Wagner said he was proud to be present as the military community of Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base and the Fayetteville civilian community joined as one to recognize the courage of the paratrooper.

“As our Soldiers leave our homes and families and deploy to combat, this great city and its proud civilians stand tall and look after our families and our children,” said Wagner.

Wagner went on to extol the professionalism and skill of the paratrooper through the years and today.

“The courage of the American paratrooper has always been steadfast,” said Wagner. “Today we honor the courage and sacrifice of the paratroopers that served and continue to serve.”

During the ceremony fallen paratroopers were honored by the laying of two black roses on monuments flanking the museum’s entrance.

Sgt. 1st Class Jerad Eldred, Special Forces medic, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) and USASOC representative laid one of the roses.

“It was an honor to be able to stand here today and recognize those who have gone before me,” said Eldred.

John Duvall, museum director, said he was pleased with both the military and civilian turnout at the event. He said this unique community is very aware of the importance of the airborne Soldier and his contributions to the nation.

“This is a great opportunity to bring everyone together to recognize the incredible courage and ability of the paratrooper to deploy quickly around the world and play a vital role in securing this nation’s freedom,” said Duvall.

Duvall said both the military community and the museum have the full admiration and support of Fayeteville.

“This is like a homecoming for all of us here today. A chance for us all to get together and celebrate,” said Duvall.

Throughout the day there were performances by the 82nd Airborne Division Band and the All-American Chorus, displays of current XVIII Airborne Corps and U.S. Army Special Operations Command equipment, and historic re-enactors including the 82nd Airborne Division Museum’s Living History Detachment.

Children lined up to try on helmets and body armor, look through the sights of a variety of weapons and climb into armored vehicles.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Morgan, Special Forces communications sergeant, 7th SFG said he enjoyed showing the specialized equipment he uses in his job to people in the local community who may never have seen it before. His family was also present and enjoying the day.

Jonathan Haigh traveled all the way from Charlotte, North Carolina with his father Jim to attend the day’s events. As John stood fascinated by a display of weapons, wearing a helmet and vest, his father beamed with pride.

Jim said Jonathan have always been fascinated with the military and was very excited to have the opportunity to meet and talk with Soldiers in addition to seeing the equipment.

“Jonathan is the most patriotic kid ever,” said Jim. “We have been anticipating this day for a long time. This is his dream.”

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The brightly colored canopies of the U.S. Army Golden Knights(Black and Gold), USASOC's Black Daggers (red and black) and the 82nd Airborne Division's All-American Freefall Team (red, white and blue), the three parachute demonstration teams from Fort Bragg, N.C., circle over a crowd of spectators during the National Airborne Day celebration at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville, N.C. Aug. 9 2008. U.S. Army Special Operations Command participated in celebrating the 8th National Airborne Day at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville, Aug. 9, 2008. National Airborne Day commemorates the anniversary of the first official jump of the Army's Parachute Test Platoon Aug. 16, 1940 . (photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason B. Baker, USASOC PAO)
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A member of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, The Black Daggers prepares to hit the mark in the front of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum during the National Airborne Day celebration Aug. 9, 2008. USASOC participated in celebrating the 8th National Airborne Day at the Airborne and Special Operations museum in downtown Fayetteville, Aug. 9, 2008. National Airborne Day commemorates the anniversary of the first official jump of the Army's Parachute Test Platoon Aug. 16, 1940 . (photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason B. Baker, USASOC PAO)
 
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