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Parachuters Jump in Honor of WWII Vets

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FREDERICK, Okla_On Saturday dozens of men and women took to the skies and plummeted to the ground below during Frederick's annual WWII Airborne Open Hanger Day. Hundreds gathered at the Frederick Army Airfield to check out the jumpers for themselves.

Twice a year the foundation holds a jump school to show World War II enthusiasts how to perform parachute jumps in the style of a World War II Airborne soldier.

It takes a special kind of person to want to jump out of a perfectly good plane.

But for the living historians in the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team, all the motivation they need can be found right inside our history books.

"Freedom isn't free. And that's the way we feel about it, so we keep their spirits alive in what we do here. People can come in, and you walk in the hangar and it's like walking back into the 1940s, " said Mel Tilley, Senior Parachute Rigger.

The men and women who sign up for the special class aren't just thrill seekers or your run of the mill sky-divers. These folks have a passion for our nation's history and a deep commitment to honoring our veterans.

"This was the greatest generation, " said Tilley. "There'll never be anything like it ever again as far as we know it. These men went and did a job, they went and did it without, you know, complaining so to speak. They knew what had to be done they went and did it."

So one by one, they launched themselves out of a C-47. A plane that's just as much a veteran as the men and women they're honoring. It's nearly 70 years old and flew through battles from London to Cairo to Italy and everywhere in between.

Many World War II veterans were present for the jumps and on hand to pin the newly graduated parachuters with their wings. It's an experience these vets look forward to and hold dear.

"I enjoy it, " said veteran, George E. Wilson. "I meet a lot of these good boys and ladies around here. And I got to go back to Europe in '09. And if it hadn't been for this World War II Demo Team, I'd have never made that trip. And it was one of the greatest trips of my life."

George Wilson is a Duncan resident. He's a member of the 101st Airborne Division. He was one of the first men on the ground after the D-Day attacks. Wilson is a hero, like so many other men from his generation, the one many call 'The Greatest Generation' , but don't tell him that.

"I tell them the heroes are the ones that didn't make it back. That's just the way I feel, " Wilson said.

Many of the jumpers are vets themselves and if not, they've made it a point to visit Normandy and the beaches where so many men were lost.

As they packed their chutes, rode in the plane, breathed in the crisp air and soared over the ground below, they remembered those experiences and never forget the price of their freedom.

"You look down, especially from the aircraft, that was what really got me. We put these guys out like this over in Normandy, and I'm in the door after everybody's gone and I'm looking out five or six miles out there at all those beaches that those guys died on. It's....pretty awesome. But anyway, that's, that's stuff that really gets to you, " said Tilley.

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